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Article From News From Bangladesh archives


Arsenic-contaminated water now being supplied in four towns

The deaf Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE)

Naimul Haq

The Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE) which is responsible for ensuring supply of safe water is supplying arsenic-contaminated water in four district towns.

The four towns are Chuadanga, Kushtia, Moheshpur (Jhenidah) and Chapainawabganj where the level of arsenic in pipeline water is between 0.07 and 0.16 mg, 0.06 and 0.08 mg, 0.09 and 0.15mg, and 0.08 mg per litre respectively.

All production wells in the four towns supply arsenic-contaminated water.

The WHO-recommended allowable limit of arsenic in drinking water is 0.05mg per litre.

Municipal authorities in the four towns have not made any public announcement that the pipeline water is contaminated with arsenic, according to sources in the towns.

The arsenic contamination in pipeline water in Chapainawabganj was detected in January 1998 and made known to the DPHE in the same month.

Regarding supply of the poisonous water in Chapainawabganj, The Daily Star published a report headlined 'Criminal Silence for 3 Years' on April 5, 2001, but to no result till now.

The arsenic contamination of water in the rest three towns was detected during August-November 2001 when the Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation Water Supply Project (BAMWSP), a wing of the DPHE, tested 390 samples collected from 99 municipalities including the three and from Rajshahi City Corporation.

The samples were tested at the laboratory of Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR).

But the DPHE has neither taken any measures to remove the poison from pipeline water nor shut down the deep tube wells in the four towns, sources in the DPHE said.

When contacted, a high official at DPHE said a plan for removing arsenic from supply water in the four towns was submitted to the planning cell of the LGRD ministry on March 3 this year. But it has not yet been approved, he said.

In the tests, it was found that pipeline water in seven of the 99 municipalities and in Rajshahi was also contaminated with arsenic.

The seven municipalities are Manikganj, Noakhali, Bhairab, Gopalganj, Faridpur, Satkhira and Rajbari.

Among the seven municipalities, the highest level of arsenic was found in Gopalganj, which was 0.38 mg/L, followed by 0.21 mg/L in Faridpur, which are dangerously high.

In all the seven municipalities and in Rajshahi, DPHE has taken measures to remove arsenic. It has installed arsenic removal plants, shut down contaminated deep tube wells and sank new wells at deeper aquifers for supply of safe water.

But in Faridpur and Bhairab the pipeline water is not yet free from arsenic. DPHE engineers are working there to supply safe water, the sources said.

Experts say long time use of arsenic contaminated water damage the lungs, liver, kidneys, bladder and skin in humans. (The Daily Star)



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