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Article From News From Bangladesh archives

Arsenic awareness inadequate among rural people, dialogue told

Speakers at a dialogue have said that awareness among the rural residents in Bangladesh of arsenic poisoning in drinking water is inadequate to inform all prospective victims about its harmful effects and the possible remedial methods, reports BSS.

The dialogue, organised here on Sunday by the American Institute of Bangladesh Studies (AIBS), was entitled ‘Arsenic Poisoning Awareness Among the Rural Residents in Bangladesh’.

Dr. Mizanur Rahman Shelley, Overseas Director, AIBS, and Chairman, Centre for Development Research, Bangladesh (CDRB) presided, a CDRB press release said yesterday.

The speakers criticised the "disjointed and yet ineffective efforts to solve the problem of arsenic poison in the tubewell water of Bangladesh ."

Prof Bimal Kanti Paul, Department of Geography, Kansas State University, USA and AIBS Senior Fellow, was the principal speaker. Prof. M Maniruzzaman Miah, former vice-chancellor of Dhaka University and Prof M Asaduzzaman, Dean of Social sciences of the same university, took part in the discussion.

Prof. Paul in his keynote paper said high concentration of arsenic in ground water had been identified as one of the most alarming health hazards in Bangladesh. At the same time the arsenic awareness was not widespread in rural areas, particularly in the areas not severely affected by arsenic poisoning of drinking water, he added.

He said though the arsenic awareness campaign was continuing in the country, it should attach more importance to signs and symptoms of arsenic poisoning and deadly diseases caused by it.

Prof. Paul strongly suggested that the public awareness programme in Bangladesh should target the poor, women, illiterate and people of older age group.

Prof. Maniruzzaman Miah said as the poorer people of rural areas of Bangladesh were vulnerable to the harmful effects of arsenic poisoning, the awareness drive should have been more in general.

He asked journalists for making investigative reports on where and how the money allotted for the project had been spent so far at home and abroad.

He noted that the arsenic contamination might reach the level of cancer as an epidemic. So, everybody should be aware of the eventuality, he observed. He suggested two ways of storing arsenic-free water. He said rain-water and surface water could be stored for a few days for sedimentation of heavy metals and harmful elements.

In his presidential address Dr. Mizanur Rahman Shelley observed that identification and understanding were keys to the solution to the problem of arsenic contaminated water poisoning in Bangladesh.

While awareness-creation was of vital importance, scientists and technicians working at home and abroad needed to quickly find ways of ensuring supply of arsenic-free water to the people, he added.(BSS)

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