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Article From News From Bangladesh archives

Leafy vegetables, reduced rice yield may have links with arsenic! - 1 Nov 02

By Monowar Hossain

Leafy vegetables, grown in areas where groundwater is highly contaminated by arsenic, are feared to have been absorbing the metal, said experts engaged in framing strategy under the water management plan.

Simultaneously, substantial reduction in rice yields from what was expected in the same areas is widely believed to be due to the presence of arsenic in groundwater in high percentage, they said. Foreign and international organisations are conducting research to find out whether and to what extent arsenic is entering the food chain. A lot will depend on the research findings.

Until the presence or absence of arsenic in food chain is scientifically established, development of a long-term arsenic mitigation and nutritional improvement strategies would hang on for quite a long time, said executives in different wings of the ministry of health and family welfare. The groundwater with arsenic at a very high percentage has rocked the present public health service and nutritional strategies.

The entry of arsenic in food chain (leafy vegetables, paddy/rice etc.), if found to be at non- acceptable level, would cause another blow to the existing public health and nutrition improvement strategies, they said privately. Information has it that Bangladesh water quality standard permits arsenic up to 0.05mg/L, which is five times higher than the WHO guidelines of 0.01mg/L. In some places in the country up to 2.4mg/L of arsenic which is about 250 times the Bangladeshi standard has been identified by various national and international health groups, NGOs etc.

Arsenic in high concentration was found in groundwater from hand tubewells and deep tubewells in many parts of the southwest, northeast, southeast and along the Ganges river. Testings of groundwater from tubewells suggest that people in 60 districts in Bangladesh might have been affected by arsenic contamination in various degrees.

The Australian Centre for Irrigation, Agriculture and Research (ACIAR) is investigating the evidence of arsenic entering the food chain. The food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is conducting a study to determine the possible effects of arsenic on stunting rice stalks. - The Financial Express

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