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Article From News From Bangladesh archives


Arsenic affected people demand safe drinking water

GOPINATHPUR (Manikganj), May 9: "Give us pure drinking water but don't advise us if you cannot give arsenic free tube-wells," the people of Gopinathpur union in Manikganj district said, reports BSS.

Gopinathpur union is a severely arsenic affected area in Manikganj district.

About 85 per cent tube-wells in the area are marked red to warn that their waters are contaminated by arsenic, Sohrab Ali Akand, chairman of the union said.

Fifteen persons have been affected by arsenic and hundreds of people are at risk of arsenic poisoning in this area, he added.

Besides sufferings from the effects of the disease, the people attacked by arsenicosis are also facing serious social problems.

They are neglected or even hated by others as it is wrongly thought that the disease is infectious.According to a survey report, 50 million people of the country are at risk of chronic arsenic poisoning.

Out of the total arsenic related patients, 60 per cent are women and children. Many women who have been affected with arsenicsois were divorced or abandoned by their husbands.

Some people of the union are aware of the arsenic problem.

They know about the usefulness of rainwater harvesting.

But it is very difficult to hold the rainwater clean as insects grow in it after some days, they said. A few have also started the three-pitcher filter system for obtaining pure water.

But they said this system works very slow and they have no time to maintain this.

Tube-wells marked with green colour meaning that their water is safe, are installed on school ground or health complexes that are far from the houses of rural people.

So, many of them are to bring water from the danger marked red tube-wells.

General awareness level of arsenic contamination is very low in the union, as elsewhere in Bangladesh.

Lack of awareness about the arsenic hazards is still a big problem. As arsenic has no taste or smell, people frequently use the water of arsenic contaminated tube-wells.

At some places, the red paint has been wiped out from the tube-wells. Growing people's awareness in this context needs the highest priority by any means. Contamination of tube-wells waters with arsenic was first reported in early 1996 from Bagerhat, Satkhira and Kushtia districts.

In December 1999, officials admitted that some 80 million people, i.e. more than 65 per cent of the country's population, live in the arsenic-tainted areas.

To provide safe drinking water, the government and aid agencies had earlier installed tube-wells across the country but now the once life-sustaining tube-wells have become the bane for millions of people.

The inhabitants of the union demand arsenic-free tube-wells for their safety.

They become angry when they see health workers or outsiders coming to advise them. They said only after arsenic-free tube-wells have been installed they would talk to them.

Many ponds have dried up here because of low water level in the under ground.

The waters of the ponds in the union are also not safe for drinking as these are used for bathing, washing, etc. Sometimes people wash their cattle in the pond water. So, the water becomes dirty.

The hazards of arsenic contaminated water are known to most of the people, but as arsenic is a silent killer, they do not take it seriously.

Those who are not directly affected, do not yet know the extent of the problem. (BSS)



Copyright 1998 Global Amitech

 

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