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Differences on arsenic project patched up - 7 Oct 2002

The government and the World Bank are likely to sign tomorrow an agreement on extension of the $44.5 million Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation Water Supply Project (BAMWSP).

At a meeting yesterday afternoon, Local Government, Rural Development (LGRD) and Cooperatives Minister Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan yesterday afternoon and the WB officials resolved that the project should continue.

The funding would come from the bank's unutilised fund of some $25.2 million and $2.5 million from the public exchequer.

The WB headquarters in Washington DC has already been notified and the agreement will be signed once it gives the go-ahead, sources in the bank said.

"The minister has expressed his willingness to continue the project using the Bank's fund and in this regard he has assured us of his cooperation," said a WB official.

After the meeting, Mannan Bhuiyan told journalists he had assured the WB of the government's all-support towards expeditious implementation of the arsenic mitigation project.

A number of 'flaws' in the project was identified, he said. "Some of these have already been redressed and others would be taken care of soon."

Mannan Bhuiyan defended the government decision to change the BAMWSP project director. "The government has brought some major changes in the Department of Public Health and Engineering (DPHE). There were allegations of corruption against some officials while promotions for some others were outstanding."

The LGRD minister insisted that there was nothing to read in the changes made. "The changes are part of a routine government work and it has no connection with the project implementation."

He also told journalists that his ministry and the WB are considering more such projects to address groundwater arsenic contamination after the BAMWSP.

Jeffrey Racki, sector manager, South Asia Environment and Social Unit, Paul Martin, senior environment specialist and KM Minnatulah, team leader of the Water and Sanitation Programme, South Asia, represented the WB at the meeting. (The Daily Star)



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