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Those sincerely working to develop effective mitigation technologies have become so frustrated by the hurdles and stumbling blocks laid in their way. The latest stumbling block is an instruction given by the government that no technology can be sold or given away before they are certified by BSCIR. But BCSIR is not in a position to give approval, and for one simple reason – they do not have the money needed to carry out the tests. From this it might seem there is a deliberate policy to keep technologies out of the hands of people. Supposedly intended to keep out technologies of dubious value, it also has the effect of keeping good ones out but as the consequential delay in getting them to the people could become a death sentence for them, something must be done to break this deadlock.
Up to now, no technology has been given clearance but if, as has been reported, more than 150,000 people have been diagnosed with arsenicosis such unnecessary delays are totally unwarranted and borders on the barbaric because there are too many children who have been consuming arsenic-contaminated water since birth. Thus we are honour-bound to provide them with any technology that might relieve their suffering. Instead we have tied up in red tape an action that should have been simple. As one NGO worker said, if the solution becomes a part of the problem, what will happen to the villagers?
That’s a good question because arsenic-poisoning if untreated can lead to death and a very painful death at that.
Six years after
Gawher Nayeem Wahra
Editorial & Compilation Team
December 31, 2003
NGO FORUM DISCUSSION MEET
a meeting held at regional office of the NGO Forum for Drinking Water
and Sanitation, speakers revealed that six persons have died from
arsenic-poisoning in Babuganj upazila of
VALIDATION OF ARSENIC MITIGATION TECHNOLOGIES LAGGING BEHIND
In January 2002, [under their partnership agreement for the validation of arsenic mitigation technologies,] the Bangladesh Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) asked Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation Water Supply Project (BAMWSP) to submit the first batch of [arsenic removal] technologies for [validation]. [In this,] BCSIR are working in collaboration with the Ontario Centre for Environmental Technology Advancement (OCETA) for obtaining technical know-how on validating chemical-based arsenic removal plants.
BCSIR was to complete the task of the technical advisory committee (TAG) which had earlier recommended the wide use of chemical-based technologies without doing any physical analyses. In March 2002, 17 arsenic removal technologies were sent [to BCSIR] for validation. Five [of these] technologies were short-listed and their field-tests are still underway at Chapainawabganj, Manikganj, Hajiganj, Bera in Pabna and Kolaroa in Satkhira. But not one of the field tests began on time as the equipment and accessories for testing them were not in place. Yet in July 2002 the government issued a gazette notification stating that, "all chemical-based arsenic filters or removal plants must obtain certification from … BCSIR before being marketed for public use"
BCSIR validation of the technologies was supposed to be submitted by 31 May 2003 of this year but, according to reports, not one of the technologies has since been approved for use and the authorities concerned could not explain why. Moreover, [at least five technologies for] chemical-based arsenic removal are reported to be waiting approval for the past one year. Only when they get [this approval] from BSCIR can these technologies be passed on to the arsenic-affected people.
In December 2002, a second batch of 12 arsenic removal technologies was submitted to BCSIR, but as the validation of the first batch of technologies is not yet complete, when the field-testing of the second batch will take place seems to be in the hands of the gods. If reports [are true] that the total allocation for the validation process has already been spent and there is no fund for starting field-tests of the second batch, [timing of field testing of the second batch] could be never. [Meanwhile,] according to a new report published in [the scientific journal] Nature, arsenic-tainted well water could be causing up to 125,000 cases of skin cancer and 3,000 deaths each year.
PATIENTS’ MENTAL HEALTH QUESTIONED
the villages of Bogra, Pabna, and Chapai Nawabganj In Sarisabari,
I have visited about a dozen affected villages several times this year in connection with a Christian Aid Assessment Survey and have now started to believe that those communities exposed to toxic arsenic through drinking water for a long time are strongly affected mentally. These villagers are mentally slow and inactive and do not respond to conversation and requests. Families are indifferent to what is going on and show no interest in remedial suggestions, or in adopting any alternative sources of safe water or medications.
Though they sometimes do respond immediately, they fail to maintain their interest as they do not have the mental strength and stamina. If this is so, arsenic mitigation will be doubly difficult. And if it continues, the agricultural labour force will be destroyed, productivity will decline, and poverty intensified. This is why we, the town-folk, away from arsenic contamination (because we are fortunate enough to have running water from deeper levels), should be concerned.
Source: AKM Azad
HOME GROWN RELIEF
by village, the world's “biggest natural calamity” is yielding to
filtration systems Sen Gupta,
of civil and environmental engineering at
According to Sen Gupta, arsenic levels in the filtered wells have plummeted from toxic rates of 100 to 500 parts per billion to well below the 50-ppb maximum permitted by the Indian government. Arsenicosis sufferers have found relief from their symptoms and reports of new cases have plummeted.
Gupta's systems are being built in
check wells weekly for arsenic levels.
THE KISII FILTER:
Kisii Filter bucket system consists of two, low-cost transparent PVC
containers, and a ceramic candle filter. Developed by the
Rural Water Systems (RWS) in
SURVEY BY THE
A survey by the Bangladesh Arsenic Control Society in Charghat Thana in Rajshahi district revealed that women affected by arsenic poisoning are being socially discriminated within the community. Young girls face difficulties in attending schools, women are ostracized and there are instances of divorce, broken families and social injustice.
Because of the skin changes, working women are also being discriminated against in their working environments and many have had to leave their jobs leading to economic hardship and social disruption. It is difficult to arrange a marriage for girls known or suspected of having arsenic poisoning.
As most rural women remain at home they are less likely to drink water from outside sources. For this reason women need to be made especially aware about
arsenic-poisoning and how to reduce the risk to their health....
JS BODY RE-EXAMINING THE PRESENCE OF ARSENIC IN THE WATER
The Parliamentary standing committee on the Ministry of LGRD and Cooperatives recently observed that the method of testing the existence of arsenic in the country’s groundwater was incorrect. The Parliamentary body suggested reexamining the samples of water across the country with more credible methods so as to get “reliable” information about the severity of arsenic contamination in the country.
Md Abdul Mannan Talukdar, the committee chairman said, "we think that the methods followed to test the existence of arsenic in ground water was not correct as the DPHE entrusted the responsibility of testing to teachers of primary and high schools by providing them with chemicals and necessary kits." He said that the way of testing for arsenic was not correct as the school teachers did not have any expertise on the issue. "Considering the limitations of the study on arsenic, we have observed that fresh tests should be conducted to measure the severity of arsenic contamination across the country." But he did not consider the money already spent for conducting the survey on the extent of arsenic contamination nor did he say anything about the expenses needed for a fresh survey.
Source : The Independent
Experts at a seminar in
the city warned
that more people would be afflicted with arsenic poisoning if they
use ground water instead of surface water. They said 55 million people
water with arsenic contamination at 10 microgram per litre. Kazi
chairman of DCH, said arsenic problem in
Dr Dipankar Chakraborti
Source: Md Mustafizur
Rahman / The
ARSENIC IN THE SOIL
If the arsenic concentration in the soil, growing food crops on that land is risky. Even crop establishment may not be possible if it is planted in highly contaminated soil. In a pot culture with a soil arsenic concentration of around 100 mg/kg the rice plant died immediately after transplantation (this is my observation - unpublished data).
[...] In my research with arsenic I found a high accumulation of arsenic in rice straw when rice was irrigated with As-contaminated water. For reference you could see the papers listed below.
Rice straw is mainly used
Source :Joinal Abedin
VIOLATION OF CHILDREN’S RIGHT TO SAFE WATER & HEALTH
Millions of children are drinking water contaminated by arsenic along with members of their communities due to the contamination of groundwater. The safe 'hand tubewells’ introduced by WHO, UNICEF, the Bangladesh government, NGOs & civil society to supply safe drinking in the 60s & 70s are now the cause of extensive poisoning, cancer, and death. Arsenic toxicity is not only affecting physiology, metabolism, and normal growth, the ‘poison’ seriously affects the already malnourished infants & children. It is also affecting protein synthesis and DNA repair, causing hereditary changes (mutations) leading to cancer, ruining reproductive growth and development and hormone receptors thus the future reproductive ability and normal life of the children is seriously threatened.
It is estimated that more than 80 million Bangladeshis have already been exposed to arsenic. The majority are below the age of 15. So we are concerned with the future of a nation but the existing approach to mitigate this disaster has been “top down”, with decisions taken at the capital and “interventions” provided from the centre. Only a fraction of those affected are provided with a one-time support when what is really needed is sustainable mitigation through “community-based organisation” (CBO) approach in which community members are provided with options and given support to decide for themselves which technology to adopt that they can sustain. This would be facilitated by NGOs with local contact and replicated and diffused through many villages. Schools would be provided with safe sources by the children themselves, thereby learning the methods and then diffusing them into their homes and the homes of neighbours. There would be a need to scale up the CBOs in unserved areas and to link them with local government, central government departments and agencies like WHO, UNICEF, International NGOs. Thus the approach should start from the “bottom,” small, effective, and sustainable. It should be appropriate for villagers, and implemented widely and quickly.
We are working in a number of villages and have had wide consultations with the suffering villagers. They are ready for this type of community-based intervention, but they need institutions and adoptable methods. They have no time to waste otherwise litigation, wide dissatisfaction, social unrest and country-wide instability may result as people experience unthinkable suffering and a slow painful death.
As members of the same
village,” the arsenic disaster urgently needs serious attention, but so
this has failed at every level. What is
needed is a down-to-the-earth approach, going directly to each and
affected village, and each and every person, especially the infants and
children, to help them to solve their own problems. We do not want to
another chaotic situation like that which AIDS is causing in
Source: Dr. M.I.Zuberi
Dr Zuberi also visited villages just two kilometers away from Rajshahi University Campus. The villagers of Kismat Kukhundi said that several of their tubewells were labeled “red”, and many others were untested. They sampled the water and found three with arsenic as high as 616 ppb! There were several tubewells thought to be free from arsenic and they were using these but this option would soon run out also.
Many tube wells around the city of
- All options for safe drinking water should remain open. They should be standardized and monitored, but availability and affordability of viable options is more important. At any cost the people MUST get safe water.
- Labeling tubewells red should be compulsory and there should be legal obligation; it is better to remove or seal them.
- Mitigation and awareness creation should be an “emergency crisis” activity, all possible resources and persons should be involved.
- Participation of village people and women is essential and a “must” for rapid success.
- Action is what is needed. Policymaking and decision taking has already taken up too much valuable time and caused irreparable loss.
removal of arsenic from the body are also much-needed interventions.
save the body from the arsenic load and future harm, and enable the
people to regain their ability to work, otherwise millions will lose
and work affecting the country’s economy and creating a burden on
Secondly, those heads of family using contaminated tubewell water are feeding it to infants, children, and would-be mothers. ”We have seen little boys and girls affected, and we have seen expectant mothers drinking arsenic-water," said Dr. Zuberi. Research reports say abortion rates are significantly higher in the contaminated areas. This means there is a case for mandatory sealing of contaminated wells, but before doing that safe water sources must be provided to all the contaminated villages. Awareness building at community level and advocacy at decision-making level are both important.
BRAC AND UNICEF
BRAC and UNICEF in a bid to tackle the arsenic menace in different parts of Sonargaon upazila have been pursuing the treatment of surface water with: Pond
Sand Filter (PSF), Rainwater Harvesters (RWH), treatment of ground water with home-based filters and use of shallow groundwater through dug-wells. A number of alternative safe water options are now in operation as demonstration units to raise the level of awareness in the community. These options have been assessed after considering initial and running costs, ease of implementation, requirement for maintenance, provision of intermittent or continuous supply, susceptibility to bacterialogical contamination and acceptability by the local community. In village Badyabazar the home-based three pitcher filter is in use. Ayesha and her family members are using this but say they can collect only two pitchers of water a day which is not sufficient to meet their daily needs even for drinking water. They have to use water from other sources for washing utensils and clothes. In village Joyrampur, the PSF method is being followed. Bashir Mollah of the village said that 65 families can use a community based PSF consisting of a tank containing the bed of filter materials and a storage chamber.
ARSENIC FREE FILTERS
The following organisations and personnel have invented arsenic free filters for
groundwater at minimal cost:
a government organisation, has developed an arsenic free filter. To develop this filter they have utilised locally available raw materials. The water flow rate is said to be 6 litres per hour. The cost of the filter is Taka 300/00 only and it can purify up to 60,000 litres of water. The cost of filtering a litre of water works out to only 20 paisa.
2. The Chairman of the Allergy Environmental Research and Skin Care Institute (AARSCI), Dr. M.A. Hassan has invented a filter to remove arsenic from contaminated groundwater. He utilised indigenous materials such as coconut coir, coconut shells and husk. After manufacture, he added a small amount of alum and mixed it with the water and allowed it to settle for 12 hours.
3. An environmental
expert from the Integrated
Quality and Environmental Management (IQU)
4. Research Associate
According to Dr. Meng the technique used is an iron coagulate tablet that when immersed in a bucket of water could dissolve the arsenic that was present in the water. The water is then filtered through a bucket filled to a level of one-third with highly absorbent sand. The bucket has a hole at the bottom from where the arsenic free water is collected via a tube. The arsenic sludge remains
in the sand.
5. Emergency Relief Society, a Canadian society dedicated to providing newly developed water purifiers to Bangladeshi families, with a view to providing pure uncontaminated water to thousands and eventually millions of families through local fabrication of water purifiers. These water purifiers come in family sized units, require no water pressure, electricity or chemicals of any sort. They have proven to be effective in removing most noxious contaminants, including arsenic.
6. Aqualor, an on-site sodium hypochlorite generator to sanitize drinking water in small communities, requires only common salt, water and electricity (110/220 volts, 50/60 hertz AC or DC from photovoltaic solar cells). It does not require any skilled operators, is easy to operate and maintain. The only maintenance needed is the immersing of the electrolytic for a few minutes in white vinegar or hydrochloric acid. Fresh, stable and clean disinfectant generated in the same place of use. Sodium Hypochlorite concentration is not dangerous to the operator
or to the environment. Designed to operate and resist abusive handling and harsh tropical conditions. It is said to be the most economical way to sanitize and
have safe drinking water in remote communities of rural areas and disaster zones.
7. Arsenic and Old Waste: A predoctoral fellow finds an organism with a taste for poison in May 1995.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute predoctoral fellow Dianne Ahmann, a graduate
student at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
discovered an arsenic eating microbe in the waters of the Aberjona
8. A Simple Filter-Tablet
developed by SOES, Javadpur,
The black coloured tablet contains Fe3+ salt, an oxidizing agent and activated charcoal. The tablet is supplied in a pouch or box After adding the tablet to the arsenic contaminated water the water turns black due to the presence of carbon. After filtering the water it is easy to know (from the suspended black particles) whether or not there is any leakage from the filter. The tablets are made by hand so the size and quality are not the same in all batches. After preparation, provided it is stored in a dark room, the tablet retains its strength for more then 15 months.
Some agencies that have evaluated the system:
2. National Test House,
3. National Environmental
Engineering Research Institute,
4. Gaighata Science Organization, North 24-Parganas, WB
Two-organisation (1) Asia
Network Japan (AAN-Japan) and (2) Asia Arsenic Network, Thailand Bureau
our system in the field where we had installed it in W. Bengal.
wrote to Chief Engineer, PHED,
Being satisfied with the arsenic removal system AAN-Japan purchased 300 units
from CSIR-New Delhi and
installed them in
World Health Organisation
purchasing 50 filtering system from CSIR, further ordered 500 filtering
UNICEF AND MOTT MacDONALD
UNICEF and Mott MacDonald have invented a ferro-cement pre-fabricated jar of
various capacities for use for Rainwater Harvesting.
1) Source - Rain water
2) Collection source - Roof of House CI sheet, Tiles, Building
3) Collection rate - 0.8 ltrs/ mm/ year incl.
4) For 1 mm annual
rainfall. Annual rainfall of
Period of Use - 6 months
Rainy season - 3 month after end of season (minimum)
Collection pipe - PVC 75 mm- 100mm
Cost of PVC -M - TK100.00 (Including fitting/ fixing)
Water Collection Jar - Ferro Cement Jar (UNICEF design)
Cost of Jar:
Capacity- 1000ltrs. - Tk. 1200.00
Capacity- 2000ltrs. - Tk. 2500.00
Capacity- 3000ltrs. - Tk. 3300.00
Maintenance cost - Tk. 200.00 (Maximum)
(UNICEF calculated cost)
A workshop on "Natural
groundwater" will be held in
Swiss Federal Institute for Environmental Science and Technology
developed dipsticks that use genetically-modified bacteria to detect
groundwater. Existing chemical tests
have proven to be unreliable in detecting low, but still dangerous
arsenic. Previous bacterial sensors
detected just one form of arsenic, arsenite. The biosensor developed by
can not only detect much lower concentrations or arsenite, but is also
partly sensitive to arsenate, another toxic form of arsenic. Production
could be as low as US$ 0.02 (EUR 0.017). Tests are currently underway
Source: Nature, 2 Oct 2003.
YOUTH GROUP TO FIGHT ARSENIC POISONING
We are forming a youth group, who will work as a volunteer in villages where people are infected with arsenic and the young people-adolescents-adults need sustainable health services.