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The use of alternative safe water options to mitigate the arsenic problem in Bangladesh: a community perspective

Md. JakariyaM.Sc. Thesis, Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Aug 2000


Following is a diagrammatic representation of a strategy to mitigate the impact of arsenic problem of Bangladesh:

Figure 2 : Diagrammatic view to Mitigate the Arsenic Problem (modified from BEN, 1997) |Click on the figure for a larger view|

It is to be observed from the above diagram that the whole arsenic scenario in Bangladesh can be divided into the following major categories:

  • Co-ordination and funding

This is one of the most important components. Co-ordination is needed among different stakeholders not only to avoid repetition of activities but also to find a mitigation package that is acceptable to the community. Apart from that funding is crucial to run different research activities related to the problem.

  • Hydrology

This is also an important component. Until and unless the exact causes of arsenic contamination in the groundwater are identified it is very difficult to develop a standard community-acceptable mitigation package.

  • Analytical chemistry

It is very important to develop a system of arsenic detection in tube well water that the community can operate themselves; this would minimize the expenses incurred in testing by outside experts.

  • Water supply and engineering

Safe drinking water also has to be community-acceptable and affordable. At the same time it is also important to make available different types of mitigation options for different type of communities and for different physiographic conditions. Therefore, the involvement of community in the selection, implementation, operation and maintenance of a system is crucial.

  • Epidemiology or Public Health

Drinking arsenic-free water is currently the only way of preventing the disease. Therefore, it is very important to develop a strong awareness programme in order to motivate people in the rural communities to drink water from arsenic-free sources. At the same time, it is very important to do further research aimed at finding a proper treatment for the disease.

  • Monitoring and evaluation

The continuous monitoring of the presence of arsenic in tube well water is essential: the arsenic level varies seasonally, therefore it is important to check each tube well at least once every six months. At the same time monitoring the performance of the provided options is also important. It will be both cost-effective and convenient if communities are trained to carry out these activities themselves.

It has been observed from the above discussion that except for the geological investigation of the causes of arsenic contamination, the active presence of the community in all other activities is crucial for the sustainable implementation of the arsenic mitigation activities in the rural areas of Bangladesh.

Since almost all the provided alternative safe water options are new both to the experts and the community, proper consultation and ensured co-operation from the community are pre-requisites for the establishment of a safe water implementation plan. The importance of identifying different factors for community participation in the various alternative safe water options can be observed from the figure. The community needs to consult during different phases of project implementation, i.e. from the selection of options to the monitoring and evaluation of a particular option.

One concludes that community forms the core component of the different activities aimed at mitigating the arsenic problem. The following section describes the different dynamics of community and community participation.  


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