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Article From News From Bangladesh archives


Go-slow arsenic project worries donors - Fund disbursement unsatisfactory

By Naimul Haq

Progress in implementation of some major components of the Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation Water Supply Project (BAMWSP) has been "extremely slow", according to a recent review report.

From December 2 to 11 last year, officials of the World Bank and the Swiss Development Corporation (SDC) reviewed progress of the five-year project, which ends this September.

The WB and the SDC along with the government are financing the US$ 44 million project.

In terms of mitigation, main objective of the project, activities "remain inadequate. Only 59 of 714 mitigation schemes have been completed," the report said.

The BAMWSP "has not yet initiated any action to mitigate contamination in 11 municipalities where arsenic has been detected in production wells," it pointed out.

The mission, which reviewed the progress of the project, "is seriously concerned that only a fraction of the communities in the 'hot-spot' villages will receive safe water sources within the project period."

The report termed the overall performance weak and was critical of fund disbursement. "None of the initial allocation for research and development (R&D) has yet been utilised."

In view of the slow progress the mission made recommendation in five critical areas. They are acceleration of screening and mitigation programme, establishment of strategic partnership, monitoring and evaluation of arsenic mitigation initiatives, implementation of communication strategies and development of longer-term pragmatic approach to arsenic mitigation.

The project director, Abdul Quadir Chowdhury, however, differed with the supervision report, claiming that the BAMWSP has achieved more than 50 per cent of its goals.

"I do not agree with some statements in the review report. We have made a lot of progress, which is reflected in our work.

"We could not complete work in most of the hot-spot villages because the safe water options offered to beneficiaries could not be disbursed as there were some technical problems.

"Most of the community-based organisations (CBOs) had asked for deep tube- wells (DTW) as safe water options out of four options. But we could not offer this, as we had no authority to install DTW without prior geological investigations.

"In such circumstances we had to revise a lot of offers to CBOs and so there was delay in many aspects."

The BAMWSP, under the local government division, was designed to achieve on- site mitigation in rural and urban areas, improved understanding of the arsenic problem and strengthening of institutional capacity of public sector institutions, communities and local government bodies.

The project is currently in the process of evaluating bids for screening in 147 more upazilas. It has also started its urban programme of screening in 390 production wells in 100 municipalities. Results of 252 production wells are now available. (The Daily Star)



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