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. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.
In december 2016, AMRF in collaboration with the Daily Kaler Kantho and WaterAid organised a roundtable on ‘Arsenic: Risk for Public Health’ in East West Media Group Limited, Dhaka, Bangladesh.
According to Dr Fariba Masud:
“Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation (AMRF) is working in Munshiganj to tackle arsenic problem. I have been involved in this project since its inception and I noticed that there are two types of people. One type of people lives in their ancestral lands, but a majority of them are away from their home. And then there are those who lost their homes to river erosion, and came here in search of job.
While some of them are day labourers, some others are rickshaw-pullers. If we take the existence of this section of the people into account, we cannot claim that the whole Munshiganj is place of well-to-do people. Those who are well-off installed deep tube-wells at the premises of their homes and are out of the danger of arsenic.
But what about those homeless people who are living in ghettos? I think they are vulnerable to arsenic contamination. We have been working for this section of people since long. We are creating awareness among them and arranging treatment facilities for them.
Munshiganj’s Lohojong is one of the most arsenic affected areas. From my first hand experience I can tell that many villagers don’t know whether their tube-well is free of arsenic or not. They don’t know to what extent arsenic is tolerable to human body. Blind consumption of unsafe water is slow poisoning them.”
According to Dr Zahed Md Masud:
“Arsenicosis is not a contagious or genetic disease. If more than 0.05 miligram arsenic is found in the water then it is considered harmful for the human health. Arsenic has been found in most of the areas of the country. People can be affected if they use the water where arsenic is prevalent. The study revealed that one person is affected per 1000 people. Country’s 63 percent women are affected by arsenicosis.
The rural people are mostly suffering from arsenic contamination. Arsenic contamination causes harm to the human body. And the diagnosis of arsenic-induced diseases is also a big problem. There are some medicines those can help people to live longer with such diseases but still these are not curable. There is a locality in Munshiganj where women have to bring drinking water from an area that is one and a half kilometres from her home.”
For the whole report, see: http://www.daily-sun.com/arcprint/details/193564/Awareness-needed-to-fight-arsenic/2016-12-24
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 “Publication: Toxic injustice in the Bangladesh water sector”
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 “How Safe Is Our Food? AMRF featuring in a Channel 4 documentary”
A few years ago, we experimented with the idea to make slight adaptations of a deep tube-well design and make it more of an eye catcher and trigger its use. The platforms around the deep tube wells were upgraded into small bathrooms. This was an entirely new idea in the context of Bangladesh. Continue reading “Deep tube-wells with attached bathrooms”
Since 2006, we have worked on establishing arsenic free drinking water supplies and developed protocols for the identification, diagnosis and treatment of arsenicosis in the Munshiganj district. However, access to safe water and to symptomatic treatment of arsenicosis will not be effective without broader health improvements. In 2013, we completed the construction of a clinic (at the sub-district level) with support from the Japan Government. Its purpose is to help address gaps in existing primary health care services. Continue reading “From households to hospital: the need for a new health care model”
A while ago, we set up an online campaign to raise funds for an ambulance that would support the activities of our clinic in Munshiganj. We are now very happy to announce that sufficient funds have been collected and that we will soon take steps towards purchasing the vehicle.
We would like to express our gratitude to everyone who participated for their generous donations and for spreading the word. Thank you! We will keep you all updated.