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Article From News From Bangladesh archives

Anti-arsenic fight founders; Aid money goes down the drain

A nexus of donors and recipients misuses the money coming in the country "like flood waters" for building awareness about arsenic contamination of drinking water, let alone combating the public health hazard.

The World Bank (WB), UNICEF and some other international organisations awarded several projects to local associations, spent millions of dollars and yielded almost nothing at the end of the day, former vice chancellor of Dhaka University Prof Maniruzzaman Miah told a discussion meet on Sunday.

Citing a number of samples of malpractice, he said UNICEF, which once created the arsenic problem by digging shallow tubewells, donated Taka 75 lakh to a "fake" local advertising farm, but no work was done with the money.

The WB launched a 46-million dollar project spanning three years for building awareness about arsenic and testing of tubewells exposed to excessive arsenic contamination. Prof Miah informed the sizeable audience of the dialogue on arsenic that so far five per cent of the work was done after four years.

An amount of Taka 150 crore was disbursed for digging deep tubewells while another big amount for training doctors yeilded no visible results.

"I donít know how the money was spent. Money flows like flood waters only to see its misuse," he said. Prof Miah, a Geography Professor having specialisation in water, also pointed out that deep tubewells are not a solution and the people are not advised to adopt cheaper methods like preserving rain and surface waters.

"We like to create poverty, we love to enliven our problems like arsenic for generations together to make money," Prof Hossain Ali said echoing the corrupt practices in implementation of the projects in the country.

Also, the keynote on "Arsenic Poisoning Awareness Among the Rural Residents in Bangladesh" presented by Bimal Kanti Paul of Kansas State University, USA, found that despite high concentration of arsenic in ground water, awareness it is not widespread in villages.

Even in the high-risk areas like Comilla and Narayanganj, 13 per cent of the respondents were not aware of the arsenic while 26 per cent in the low-risk areas of Tangail and Rangpur had no knowledge about the arsenic contamination, according to the study.

Moderated by Overseas Director of American Institute of Bangladesh Studies (AIBS) Dr Mizanur Rahman Shelley, the dialogue was also addressed by Prof Asaduzzaman and Prof Dalem Chandra Burman. (The BD Observer)

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