A heuristic approach for arsenic mitigation in Bangladesh

Interdisciplinary Student Research

By Jorian Bakker, Kennard Burer, Martijn Kamps, Anne Kervers

Since the problem identification of arsenic contamination in Bangladesh, several mitigation options have been tried to provide safe drinking water. However, they have not had the intended effect yet. Often policy makers do not take local characteristics thoroughly into account. We have focused on creating an integrative tool that policy makers may use heuristically to choose the most feasible mitigation option when arsenic concentrations exceed the Bangladesh National Standard (BNS) in groundwater. A tool was designed that incorporates the key considerations and local conditions for developing arsenic mitigation policy in Bangladesh. This tool was composed using certain key-criteria that are absolutely necessary to take into account when assessing which mitigation method is most feasible on a specific location. This tool is the final product of interconnecting key-criteria.

A schematic overview of the tool is provided in the figure (please click to enlarge). It should be read by starting at the top at step 1 and continuing until step 5, indicated by the uninterrupted line. The tool provides the order in which all the key-criteria should be considered. During the process of choosing the most feasible mitigation option there are several feedback mechanisms in place that allow the user to make evaluations when necessary. These feedback mechanisms are indicated by the interrupted lines. The key-criteria that are displayed in this tool function as the key questions or the guideline for policy makers involved in arsenic mitigation. The tool itself should be viewed as an ongoing process, whereby the use of the tool could lead to new insights. Such new insights should be included accordingly and this gives the tool its strength. It also addresses important aspects such as environmental impact and socio-political acceptance each with equivalent importance unlike any other research in this niche. Therefore, it provides new scientific insights.

When determining the most feasible mitigation method for a certain area, first the local characteristics of the location should be determined. Then, a cost benefit analysis should be done based on the initial conditions and specific traits of the chosen mitigation method. If the benefits are higher than the costs a stakeholder analysis has to be performed to determine the stakeholders that are involved in the process. Subsequently, the support and investment capabilities of the involved stakeholders should be determined. If enough capital can be provided and socio-political support is high the project is most likely feasible. If a mitigation method seems both financially feasible and socio-politically accepted it is ready for implementation.

While assumptions had to be made when creating the tool it is supposed that the tool represents reality to an extent that it can provide an answer to the question of arsenic mitigation and can be used for the entire country and possibly other countries as well.

iisThis study was performed in the context of the Interdisciplinary Project course that is part of the bachelor Future Planet Studies at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Amsterdam. The course aims to design and execute research in an interdisciplinary team and to produce new insights with regard to current complex issues.

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