The problem at a glance
Contamination of groundwaters with arsenic poses a major health risk around the world, but it is in Bangladesh that the worst mass poisoning in history is taking place. Millions of rural poor are drinking water containing high levels of arsenic. Although the problem has long been recognised, little has been achieved to resolve it. Among the few projects that are being implemented, even fewer have managed to reach the poor and to bring about lasting results. The urgent and complex character of the arsenic crisis requires an integrated and participatory program that links research and implementation in a manner that reflects the priorities of local communities.
An 8-minute video introduction
Please see here for the full 1-hour video documentary.
Who we are
The Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation (AMRF) is a joint effort between academic researchers, medical doctors and development practitioners. Our program aims to establish safe water and health support in arsenic-affected and marginalised communities, and to derive lessons from these experiences for replication elsewhere in Bangladesh and in other countries facing similar challenges. Please download our flyer for more information.
A new study suggest that community wells in Araihazar, and probably elsewhere in Bangladesh, were not optimally allocated by the government because of elite capture. As a proxy for water access, distance calculations show that 29% of shallow wells with >50 μg/L arsenic are located within walking distance (100 m) of at least one of the 915 intermediate or deep wells. Similar calculations for a hypothetical more even distribution of deep wells show that 74% of shallow wells with >50 μg/L arsenic could have been located within 100 m of the same number of deep wells.
van Geen, A., Ahmed, K. M., Ahmed, E. B., Choudhury, I., Mozumder, M. R., Bostick, B. C., & Mailloux, B. J. (2015). Inequitable allocation of deep community wells for reducing arsenic exposure in bangladesh. Journal of Water Sanitation and Hygiene for Development.
We were part of a consultation which led to a recently released Human Rights Watch report saying “the Bangladesh government is failing to adequately respond to naturally occurring arsenic in drinking water across large areas of rural Bangladesh… Approximately 20 years after initially coming to international attention, an estimated 20 million people in Bangladesh – mostly rural poor – still drink water contaminated over the national standard.” The HRW report can be downloaded here. Please see our earlier post for more information on how we would frame the arsenic problem in terms of social justice and human rights.
We have seen many cases where existing water supplies are not up to standards due to a lack of maintenance. One major issue has been the bad state of the platform around the hand pump, which makes water use less accessible and increases the risk of bacterial infection. Last year, rather than only focusing on installing new water supplies, we also assisted communities with “fixing” these failed projects. From 04/2014 to 03/2015, we constructed and rehabilitated 34 tube-well platforms in Sreenagar and Louhajong upzilas, Over 2000 people are using these water supplies on a daily basis. (You can find our report here.)
During the last financial year (04/2014-03/2015), we have worked with communities to install fourteen new deep tube-wells in four different unions in Sreenagar and Lohajong upazillas. More than 1700 people have gained access to safe water from those tube-wells. The procedure is based in a participatory process briefly described in this report.
Arsenic contamination of groundwater in Bangladesh poses a major environmental health hazard to millions. The efforts of public health programmes to address the problem have often been short-lived and unevenly distrib- uted. The crisis represents a failure of governance and a structural injustice of global dimensions. Rights-based approaches to development have been proposed to address such problems. This paper explores the implications of framing the arsenic problem in terms of social justice and human rights. Continue reading
A documentary was recently produced by Nine Lives Media for a Channel 4 Dispatch. It features our Director and clinic in Munshiganj. The topic: Europe is eating more rice than ever before, from ready meals to breakfast cereals, but some leading scientists and experts warn that certain types of commonly consumed rice contain a worrying level of naturally occurring arsenic. The video is streaming in the UK (or through a VPN service) here. We will provide an update as soon it is available through other channels. Continue reading