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Article From News From Bangladesh archives

Arsenic menace haunts thousands in Meherpur - 80 pc tubewells contaminated, 40 pc suffer from malady

MEHERPUR, Apr 4:–Thousands of people in three upazilas of the district have been passing their days amid arsenic menace which has been detected in underground water of the district. As many as 50 people died of arsenic related diseases of whom more than 30 at village Bholadanga under Gangni Upazila, according to a source.

The Directorate of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) and the Health Department failed to give any data of the total number of people who have been suffering from arsenic related diseases but an unconfirmed report reveals that 40 per cent people are suffering from the arsenic related diseases. The condition of 10 per cent people is stated to be critical.

Meherpur bordering West Bengal, India, has been identified as arsenic prone area. According to DPHE there were 35,000 hand driven tubewells in the district, of which, 1017 tubewells were tested by the DPHE and found more than 80 per cent tubewlls arsenic contaminated above 0.05 pc mg/1. Out of 64 districts, 59 are arsenic affected of which Meherpur district is the badly arsenic affected district. The people have been fighting against arsenic curse.

A group of journalists visited the remote village Bholadanga recently under Gangni Upazila following an information that more than 30 people died of arsenic related diseases and 500 people have been suffering from the diseases. There are nearly 400 tubewells in the village but the water of the majority tubewells was not tested and thousands of people are quite ignorant about arsenic poisoning. The journalists found people suffering from various kinds of skin diseases.

Dr. Sajedur Rahman, acting Civil Surgeon, who also visited the village along with the journalists said most of the diseases caused by arsenic.

The villagers consider the disease as the work of evil spirits. Many of the doctors are not well conversant about the arsenic poisoning and wrong treatment by the doctors not only causes untold sufferings to the patients but also it occasionally becomes fatal. A family of the village Bholadanga lost 3 of its members who had skin diseases, according to Riza Khatun (44), wife of deceased Upazila Malitha.

In the absence of alternative arrangement for safe drinking water, thousands of people take water from arsenic contaminated tubewells. The majority illiterate men and women believe that disease is often caused by evil spirits as they commit sin. The youngsters are not being interested to marry the girls' of the village, it has learnt.

The government and the donor agencies have been spending crores of Taka for identifying contaminated tubewells and for safe drinking water but no significant progress has been made so far and no effort has been taken to find out an alternative arrangement for safe drinking water.

The arsenic mitigation programme launched by the government with the help of the donor agencies planned to set up a community tubewell free from arsenic contents in each village but nothing had been done so far in this respect. The office of the project is situated in Khulna.

Wahed Haque, Sub-Divisional Engineer, DPHE visited the village Bholadanga after the visit of journalists said that he has been thinking to dig covered ring well with hand pump. A test case the DPHE, Meherpur, had undertaken a scheme to dig 40 ring wells in the district initially for supplying arsenic free drinking water and contractors have been selected in June, 2000 to complete the work by July, 2000, but the work started recently. During the visit of the journalists found a ring well digging near the house of Hasan Faruk of village Bholadanga.

A student of Meherpur Government College was attacked with arsenic related disease.


Our Faridpur Correspondent reports: Arsenic contamination in most of the tubewells' water has been detected in the district. Ten persons, three belonging to a family died of arsenic related diseases in village Domrakandi, Tambul Khana, Ambikapur and Gangabardi under Sadar upazila.

Anowar Mollah and his two sons–Shahid Mollah and Azahar Mollah are the victims of arsenic contamination.

More than 100 persons have been attacked with arsenic related diseases.

A survey conducted recently by an NOG has revealed that most of the tubewells' water in four villages contain excessive arsenic. (The BD Observer)

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