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By T.


Bangladesh made great strides in improving coverage of its population with access to an improved water supply. Bangladesh -97% of rural areas having access to an improved water. But it is reduced to 74% due to arsenic contamination. Groundwater arsenic contamination in Bangladesh is reported to be the biggest arsenic calamity in the world in terms of the affected population. The Government of Bangladesh (GOB) has initiated and implemented a number of major programmes, with support from development partners and a range of national and international NGOs.

Bangladesh located in the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta. Most regions of Bangladesh are composed of a vast thickness of alluvial and deltaic sediments which is rich in is rich in arseno-pyrite, pyrite, iron sulfate, and iron oxide as revealed by the geological investigation. Rainfall is highly seasonal - people used to use groundwater for drinking water supplies, which is low cost, year-round availability, simple withdrawal mechanism And also the materials and manpower to sink tubewells are available throughout the country.

An analysis of data collected in the DPHE-Unicef project area in 15 upazilas of Bangladesh reported that 88.1% tubewells are privately owned of which 84.8% is used for domestic purposes. In 1986 government to reduce the chronic shortage of food liberalise laws on sale of imported pumps double the area of cultivation and no. tube wells in the country. The groundwater in Bangladesh has declined progressively due to the excessive extraction of water for irrigation and domestic water supply, lack of water management. Excessive groundwater extraction may be the vital reason for creating a zone of aeration in clayey and peaty sediments containing arseno-pyrite. Under aerobic condition, arseno-pyrite decomposes and releases arsenic that mobilizes to the subsurface water. The mobilization of arsenic is further enhanced by the compaction of aquifers caused by groundwater withdrawal.

Increase in no. tube wells

Large scale withdrawal of GW Diffusion of oxygen Oxidation of arseno-pyrite Formation of waters oluble iron arsenate Extraction of arsenic dissolved water during pumping

Impacts on human being

A large number of populations in Bangladesh are suffering from melanosis, leuco-melanosis, keratosis, hyperkeratosis, dorsum, non-petting oedema, gangrene and skin cancer. And also causes cardiac disease, cerebrovascular disease, pulmonary disease, diabetes mellitus and diseases of the arteries, arterioles, and capillaries. skin lesions on palm and soles The occurrence of black foot disease after arsenic exposure has been extensively documented as have a range of skin conditions. The occurrence of arsenic diseases depends on the ingestion of arsenic compounds and their excretion from the body. The analysis shows that around 90% of people have arsenic in their hair & nail above the normal

In Bangladesh, 95% of the groundwater abstracted is used for irrigation. There is no evidence that arsenic is essential for plant growth but it has phytotoxic effects on different crops and so may limit crop yields. Wetland rice is known to be very susceptible to arsenic toxicity The arsenic content of vegetables was found to be higher when irrigating with arsenic contaminated water than those grown with arsenic free water. The trend of arsenic accumulation in leafy vegetables is higher and lower in fruity vegetables. The probability of significant amount of arsenic into the food chain has been reported in areas where the arsenic contaminated ground water is used for irrigation

A report of analysis of soil, pond water and tube well water showed that the soil below 2.5 feet from the surface has high arsenic concentration (>400mg/l). Arsenic residues can accumulate to very high levels in agricultural areas where arsenic pesticides or defoliants were repeatedly used. Arsenic can move downward with leaching water, especially in coarse-textured soil profile and in submerged soils. The average concentration of arsenic in Bangladesh soil was 10 mg/kg

Illiteracy and lack of awareness

Panicked the local people Contagious killer

Suffered people are ostracized Avoided or discouraged to appear in public places

Children are banned to attend school Adults lose their jobs Women faces ostracization and discrimination

The mitigation of arsenic requires interventions in screening, awareness-raising, water supply provision and patient identification and management. The primary focus of the mitigation effort in Bangladesh has been on the provision of alternative water sources. A significant number of projects and programmes have been implemented by different organizations across the country since the detection of the arsenic problem.

DPHE-Unicef and BAMWSP are both specifically designed for arsenic mitigation. DPHE-Danida and GOB IV are both general water supply programmes that have installed water supplies in arsenic affected Upazilas. No. of projects undertaken in different sectors.
Screening Mitigation Awareness Patients identificationa and support Integrated approach 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70

Community mobilisation

Water quality testing


Identifying the patients

Safe water options

A total of 18 organizations with the help of development partners have piloted different mitigation activities in arsenic affected areas of the country through a total of 47 projects and programmes. The Implementation Plan for Arsenic Mitigation in Bangladesh identifies a number of water supply technologies for use in arsenic mitigation: protected dug well, pond sand filter, rainwater harvesting, deep tubewell and river sand filters. It also notes the desirability of promoting piped water supplies.

In a system of stratified aquifers, a tubewell that collects water from a deeper aquifer leaving one or more water bearing aquifers above is called a deep tubewell. The deeper aquifers are separated from contaminated shallow aquifers by relatively impermeable strata, hence they are arsenic free. Sealing of the annular space around the tubewell using mudballs soft clay , cement has been emphasised in the protocol for installation of deep hand tubewells to protect the deeper aquifers from contamination installation of tubewell in reddish sand, if available, should be safe from arsenic contamination.

Arsenic removal technologies have also been distributed in different parts of the country on a pilot scale. Some of the technologies are imported from outside the country and some are developed inside the country. Arsenic removal technologies introduced by different organizations in Bangladesh principally based on four different processes: oxidation/precipitation; coprecipitation and adsorption; and, membrane filtration. Most of those technologies were introduced in small and experimental scale. It is very important to consider several factors such as type of materials used in the system, availability of inputs, efficiency of arsenic removal, chemical and physical properties of the material, operating techniques and maintenance, replacement cost of materials, and environmental impact of the waste.

Priniciples Oxidation/precipitation

Technology Passive sedimentation Insitu oxidation Solar oxidation

Co-precipitation and adsorption

Bucket treatment unit Fill and draw unit Chemical packages BCSIR Filter unit MRT-1000 and reid systems ltd Low pressure nanofiltration and reverse osmosis

Membrane filtration


PSF 13



739 227 81 1552 268 241 106 29 3281

12 0 5 321 0 47 490 23 91

3001 95 11 7472 804 384 1205 147 13119

1867 14 0 403 0 85 0 7 2385

2 2985 6268

20 2590 3521

132 73 13324

14706 57718 74809

The key messages provided through the campaigns were: What arsenic is and its source; The consequences of drinking arsenic contaminated water for long time; The alternative sources of arsenic free safe water; How the alternative source of arsenic free safe water option is maintained; and How arsenic affected individuals can be identified and how they can get help. The different studies all appear to show that knowledge about arsenic has greatly increased because of the awareness-campaigns and that attitudes have improved.

The policy aims to:. providing a guideline for arsenic mitigation providing Safe Water Supply The main policies are Ensuring access to safe water Diagnosis Assessment of impacts on agriculture Preference to surface water Promoted piped water supplies To monitor the implemented process

The Implementation Plan identifies three phases to mitigation: Emergency phase (villages with over 80% of tubewells with arsenic above 50g/l) Medium-term response (villages with 40-80% of tubewells with arsenic above 50g/l) Long-term response (villages with less than 40% of tubewells with arsenic above 50g/l) Many research plans concerning health of people and impacts on agriculture were implemented

Future needs for arsenic mitigation Coordination Total water quality Mapping and Improved Understanding of Groundwater and Mobilization of Arsenic Improved Monitoring and Evaluation Patient Identification and Surveillance Human Resources Development

There is no doubt that the arsenic contamination in Bangladesh is a big environmental disaster in the human history and also a big challenge to a very successful public health story. The complex nature of arsenic increases the severity of the problem. Though different national and international organization are working to provide safe drinking water to the people, but still there not enough technology which are economically affordable to exposed people, technically feasible and environmentally sustainable. So it is important responsibility to both national and international community to have a sustainable technology which can save a millions of peoples from the unlimited suffering and give them a safe drinking water sources.

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