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Article From News From Bangladesh archives

UNICEF chief wants all tubewells tested by next year - 9 Feb 2003

Unicef representative in Bangladesh Morten Giersing urged Saturday the authorities concerned to test all tubewells across the country within the next one year to help tackle the arsenic problem, reports BSS.

"Bangladesh was exceptionally successful in providing safe water to people. But the arsenic problem has spoiled that success. It's a dramatic problem but we need to scale it down because the people suffer from horrific sickness once they become exposed to the disease," the Unicef representative said while addressing a seminar on "Water and Sustainable Development" at the National Press Club in the city in the city.

Minister for Water Resources L K Siddiqui inaugurated the seminar as the chief guest. Chairman of Media Network for Sustainable Development (MNSD) Shamsuddin Ahmed, Executive Director Technology Syed Shah Habib Ullah, officer in charge of UNIC Kazi Ali Reza, Feroz Ahmed of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology ( BUET), former director general of Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) engineer Asaduzzaman and head of water and environment division of Bangladesh Unnayan Parishad (BUP) Ahsan U Ahmed, among others, spoke on the occasion.

The MNSD organised the seminar in association with the UNICEF and the UN Information Centre (UNIC) in the city to create awareness about significance of the year 2003 as the International Year of Fresh Water. Morten Giersing said arsenic test requires less than one dollar per tubewell. He said the Kyoto conference of the World Water Forum would introduce "water poverty index." Some Bangladeshi children will also visit the conference as participants of the children's water forum. Safe water brings down the child mortality rate, he said. Morten said Bangladesh can achieve 100 per cent sanitation coverage by 2015 if it takes appropriate steps.

A high-level ministerial conference for Asian nations titled "AsiaSan-2003" will be held in Dhaka by September, he added. The Water Resources Minister said many water-related problems and issues in the developing countries are identical. Like Bangladesh, he said, the Chinese people are also facing some water-related problems.

'The difference is, China has control over their water resource but we don't have that level of control,'' the minister said. Siddiqui said flood, drought and over-irrigation are annual problems. Feroze Ahmed said groundwater is the main source of water supply in urban and rural areas. But availability of the groundwater has emerged as a problem due to presence of arsenic, excessive dissolved iron, salinity in the coastal areas and lowering of the groundwater level etc. (BSS)

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