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Article From News From Bangladesh archives

Rainwater alternative to arsenic-contaminated water

RAJSHAHI, May 22 : Rainwater harvesting has emerged as a viable alternative source of drinking water for arsenic-affected people of Bangladesh, reports BSS.This probability came out in an experience sharing workshop on "Rainwater Harvesting An Action Research Project", held here on May 15.

The day long experience sharing meeting was presided over by SMA Rashid, Executive Director, NGO Forum for Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation, while Dr. Fazle Banu Lily, Programme Officer, Swiss Development Co-operation (SDC) was the chief guest. Dr. Shukuruddin Mridha, Civil Surgeon, Rajshahi, and Abdul Motaleb, Director Watsan Partnership Project, attended as special guests.

In a desperate bid to find out an alternative to arsenic-contaminated water, NGO Forum for DWSS, in collaboration with Watsan Partnership Project (WPP) and SDC, initiated rainwater harvesting in Charghat and Bagha taking Swallows Thanapara Development Society, Sachetan and Samata Nari Kalyan Sangstha as implementing partners.

So far, they have fielded 51 plants out of the targeted 100. Presently, all plants are placed at well to do families for collecting rainwater from CI sheet houses. This is workable for six months from May to October, in full swing and in case early rain occurs, it may be useful in March and April, too.

Rashid informed the workshop that they are trying to find out a model which is socially acceptable, technically viable, family based technology, sustainable alternative, ensures involvement of women and replaceable easily. Of course, he said now they will go for poor and extreme poor.

While adding her traditional and indigenous experience, Dr. Lily said this is not an alien method. Before introduction of tubewell, there was rainwater harvesting system in the coastal areas of South Bengal, which had saline water all around. Even poor people with the help of 2 to 3 CI sheets and spilt bamboo used to collect rainwater for drinking throughout the year. They are also maintaining a pond for drinking water for people around. To protect the pond from misuse, they even put crocodiles in the pond.

While introducing the action research, the field engineer said, they have used different models of Sri Lanka, Nepal and Thailand. But he did not mention the traditional practice of South Bengal.

Dr. Shukuruddin Mridha mentioned the relation between rainwater harvesting and dengue. Referring to Nepalese experience, he said aedes mosquito well thrived in rainwater in Nepal. "So, we must be careful about this," he warned.

Referring to the treatment of arsenicosis patients, he said, we have no developed treatment. Sometimes vitamins A and C are given to the affected people.

Under the highly-structured research project, they have identified 178 patients of second and third stages.

The doctors of the project inspected 47 arsenicosis patients and gave them prescriptions. But only one patient was able to buy medicine.

The workshop was attended by researchers, implementing NGO leaders, field workers, users, group leaders, journalists and scores of participants from Dhaka, including some donor agencies.

Participants and field-based people from villages demanded more plants, especially for poor people, at the earliest. At the same time, they demanded immediate free treatment of the arsenicosis-affected poor people.

Researchers claimed that during the last seven to eight months they have not found any bacteria and people are taking water easily. But one participant spoke of his experience of having bacteria within one month in preserved rainwater in a coastal area. ( BSS)

Copyright 1998 Global Amitech


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