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Arsenic Contamination of Ground Water in Nepal – An Overview

Jay K Thakur1,4 , AL Ramanathan2,4 and Manish Kumar3

1ITC, The Netherlands; 2SES, JNU, India; 3DUE, GSE, The University of Tokyo, Japan; 4HEMS, Nepal

Abstract Methodology Arsenic Mitigation Strategies and Progress

Ground water Arsenic contamination is major issue Arsenic 1. Screening of water sources
Shape file fo
of water supply system and environmental health data from
Literature review spatial data A. First Phase (1999-2003)
management sectors in Nepal. National Sanitation various
Steering Committee (NSSC) with the help of many sources •DWSS/WHO detected arsenic in 1999 (Jhapa,
other organizations has completed Arsenic testing in Morangand Sunsari-273 samples),
739,009 samples in 25 districts of Nepal. Status of •DWSS/UNICEF completed over 4,000 tube wells
2003, when 25,058 samples were tested in 20 testing adopting GRID METHOD (2 km x 2 km) in 20
Processing and Terai districts;
districts showed 23% and 8% of samples containing Statistical Analysis
attribute analysis
arsenic concentration 10-50 ppb and >50 ppb •4,000 tube wells in 17 districts by 2003 (NRCS with
respectively. But recent status shows that out of ENPHO)
737,009 samples tested, 58,305 and 17,258 •Other NASC members (FINNIDA, Fund Board,
samples i.e. 7.91% and 2.34% of total samples, Result NEWAH, Plan Nepal) undertook testing of tube wells in
were containing As concentration 10-50 ppb and visualization and their project sites;
>50 ppb respectively. interpretation
•“HOT SPOTS” testing (Districts - Nawalparasi,
Introduction Kapilbastu, Parsa, Mahottari, Rautahatand Dang)
Result and Discussion (DWSS/UNICEF)
•Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia,
located between latitudes 26o22’N to 30o27’N and Arsenic distribution in various districts of Nepal •All together over 17,000 tube wells were tested by
longitude 80o04’E to 88o12’E, and bordered by several agencies adopting various kits by 2003;
China to the north and India to the south, east and B) Second Phase 2004-2006
west. •Blanket Tubewell testing conducted from 2004 onwards
•Total population according to CBS census, 2001, is •Initially 8 districts were covered by 2005
23,151,423 (11,563,921 males and 11,587,502 •Additional 3 districts completed by 2006
•NASC members (NEWAH, FUND Board, FINNIDA,
•Population growth rate = 2.24 % per annum PLAN, and CARE) and other stakeholders also
•Developmental Region = 5 conducted several tests in their project sites
•Arsenic (Z=33) is a ubiquitous element, which •ENPHO/JICA identified arsenic contamination in deep
occurs naturally in the earth’s crust. wells of Kathmandu Valley.
•The toxicity of arsenic to human health ranges from •In total 25 districts were completed by 2008.
skin lesions to cancer of the brain, liver, kidney, and Nawalparasi: 12.28% of total tested sample:>50 ppb 2. Safe water options
stomach. Nawalparasi: 26 % of total tested sample:10-50 ppb I. Arsenic Avoidance
•Inorganic arsenic species are more toxic than Morang: 43 % of total tested sample: 10-50 ppb ii. Arsenic Removal
organic forms to living organisms, including humans Kathmandu: 4.90 % of total tested sample : >50 ppb
and other animals. •Arsenic Mitigation guideline developed by DWSS for
Kathmandu: 38 % of total tested sample: 10-50 ppb three options: Bio-sand Filters, New well installation and
Map 1: Study Area : 25 districts out of 75 districts Dug well improvement
Map 2
i. Arsenic Avoidance
a) Switching to safe wells
b) Improved Dug/Ring well
c) Extension of piped systems (urban/semi urban)
d) Rainwater harvesting
e) Surface water treatment (slow sand filtration etc)

ii) Arsenic Removal

Guideline value for Arsenic in drinking water
•Central developmental region of Nepal including a) Two GagriFilter promoted
WHO Standard : 10 ppb capital Kathmandu pictures highest As concentration. by ENPHO/NRCS
Interim Nepal Standard : 50 ppb
• Expected total no. of Diagram 1 b) Three GagriFilter
Available Arsenic Testing Methods
tubwell in Terai districts c) ArsenicResults
Iron Removal Plants
1.) Field methods = 10,50,000 >10-50 ppb
7.91% d) Bio-Sand Filter
• AAN Kit (Japan) •Tested tubewells: 70%
> 50 ppb
• E-Merck Kit (Germany) • Total tested samples 2.34%
• NIPSOM Kit (Bangladesh) in 25 districts: 7,37,009
• AIIHPH Kit (India) •2.3 %: As: >50 ppb
0-10 ppb
• ENPHO Kit (Nepal) •7.9 %: As: 10 – 50 ppb 89.75%

• Modified AAN Kit (Nepal) •89.7 %: As: < 10 ppb Graph 2: Arsenic Concentration in the Ground
Water of Nepal
• Hach EZ (USA) Photo sources: NSSC, 2006
Health Hazards of Arsenic Poisoning Recommendations
• Wagtech Arsenator (UK)
2. Analytical Methods •First recorded - arsenic Survey remaining at-risk areas; Develop awareness;
poisoning in Nepal - Adopt the WHO guideline; Identify alternative safe water
1. Atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS)
February 2003. sources and assess their sustainability; Priorities water-
a. Hydride Generation System (AAS-HG) supply and treatment interventions; Investigate impacts
•He manifested outward
b. Graphite furnace (AAS-GF) for atomization, signs of arsenic poisoning, of As on health and agriculture; Strengthen capability of
2. Inductively coupled plasma including lesions, open agricultural research institutions.
a. With atomic emission spectrometry (ICP-AES) ulcers, red eyes, and Poster Session
hardening of the skin on “Managing water in a changing world”
b. With mass spectrometry (ICP-MS)
his hands and feet.
3. Atomic fluorescence spectrometry (AFS) Photo sources: NSSC, 2003 An International Conference hosted by
4. Anodic stripping voltammetry (ASV) or •A study by ENPHO (Nepal) showed that of 497 hair The Commission for Water Sustainability
and 110 nail samples tested for arsenic content, 95% International Geographical Union (IGU), Torino, Italy
5. Spectrophotometry.
of hair samples and 71% of nail samples contained July 27 to 31, 2009
For more information arsenic over the normal limit. Arsenic content of 62%
Jay Krishna Thakur of hair samples exceeded the toxic level (> Special Section : Underground resources
1000µg/kg). But, the dermatome prevalence is only Acknowledgement:
Email: up to 5.1%, which is too low to support the existing National Sanitation Steering Committee (NSSC), arsenic exposure. Nepal for data availability