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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


6.1 Study area

This study was conducted in areas where BRAC has been working to mitigate the arsenic problem for more than a year. BRAC distributed different safe water options among the community as free demonstration units. These free options were located and distributed among people selected by the community itself. A limited number of options were distributed in each village, the intention being to motivate and raise the awareness of the villagers about the provided options. Since the number of provided options in any one village was very low, perceptions of villagers about these options were collected from different parts of the respective upazilas. The villages were selected purposely to meet the criteria of the research project and to get a better accessibility for carrying out project activities because of time and resource constraints.

Focus group discussion and household survey methods were used to generate ideas and identify the factors responsible for the people accepting or rejecting the provided safe water options as well as the community’s perception of the provided options.

6.2 General characteristics of the study areas

It has been observed during reconnaissance visits that the two study villages (see Figure 5 and Figure 6 for study villages) have some distinct characteristics. These differences are presented in the following table:

Table 2: General difference between the study villages

Vhagolpur (V) Village: Sonargaon

Kamarpara (K) Village: Jhikargacha

1. This upazilla is very close to the capital of Bangladesh (20 km).

1. This upazilla is very far away from the capital city (1000 km).

2. Average economic condition of this people of the village is relatively rich

2. Average economic condition of the people of the village is relatively poor.

3. Culture of the people is almost town oriented.

3. Culture of the people is mostly village oriented.

4. Profession of people is mostly business-oriented.

4. Profession of people is mostly agriculture-oriented.

5. Households are mostly individual- and family-oriented.

5. Households are mostly collective- and community-oriented.

6. Acceptance of any new technology or idea is very difficult; i.e. community people are not very responsive to the motivation from outside the village mainly because of their exposure to the outside world.

6. Acceptance of any new technology or idea is less difficult; i.e. people are more open-minded.

7. Literacy rate is comparatively high in this village.

7. Literacy rate is comparatively low in this village.

Source: Field Observation

6.3 Sampling techniques

BRAC is conducting a community-based arsenic mitigation project in two upazilas, Sonargaon & Jhikargacha. Because of time constraints two villages were selected from BRAC-operated areas specifically to meet the objectives of the research project. Vhagolpur village in Sonargaon upazilla and Kamarpara village in Jhikargacha upazilla were selected for household survey type analysis. In Vhagolpur the number of households was small (51) and therefore in this village a 100% household survey was conducted, whereas in Kamarpara, one in every three households was selected for the household survey in order to keep the household number in the two upazilas consistent. Two field researchers were trained in each upazilla to conduct the household survey and carry out the focus group discussions. Several focus group discussions were held in each location with different categories of people. Different categories of people were selected for the focus group discussion.

Figure 5: Vhagolpur Village |Click on the Figure for a larger view|

Figure 6: Kamarpara Village |Click on the Figure for a larger view|

The main techniques used for data collection were the household survey and focus group discussion. A detailed questionnaire was administered in the selected households in order to understand people’s perceptions of the provided options as well as other data in order to fulfill the objectives of the project.

A separate semi-structured questionnaire was prepared specifically for the focus group discussions and administered to different categories of people in the project villages in order to get ideas about communities and their perceptions of alternative safe water options and the arsenic problem.

6.5 Data processing and analysis

The data sheets were rigorously edited and checked for completeness and consistency. Afterwards, the data were entered into a database using FoxPro software. Later, data were analyzed using SAS (Statistical Analysis Software). Univariate and bivariate tables were used for data presentation and interpretations.

6.6 Limitations

Any study involving interviews and visual observations is prone to bias, which may or may not affect the findings of the study. An effort to avoid this was made by employing independent research assistants in order to ensure an unbiased outlook when collecting data and also conducting the focus group exercises.

In addition, the use of tube well water in Bangladesh has become very popular among rural people, owing to a cumulative effort and continuous campaign of 25 - 30 years in that direction both from government and NGOs. Because the practice is so deep-rooted, it is therefore very difficult to change the people’s habit of using arsenic-contaminated sources to using arsenic-free sources. Therefore it was very difficult in some places to obtain villagers’ positive feedback to alternative safe water options. Due to time constraints and the monsoon season it was not possible to obtain a larger sample size than the present one.



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