Arsenic in the shallow wells and salinity in the deep wells

Shatkhira assessment 2Next to our current drinking water projects, we are also looking to expand our work into new areas with different socioeconomic, geographic and cultural characteristics. We expect that the implementation process developed so far can be adjusted and refined to fit these new circumstances. The highly vulnerable, low-lying and densely populated coastal districts of Bangladesh are home to about 28% of the total population. Next to arsenic contamination, these areas present additional challenges. About 40% of the total global storm surges have been recorded there and the deadliest cyclones in the past 50 years are those that have struck Bangladesh. The situation is likely to worsen as climate change has been linked to increased frequency of storm surges pushing further inland and losses of land due to sea-level rise.

Shatkhira assessment 1In 2012-2013, we conducted preliminary field visits and  surveys in de coastal district of Shatkhira. In addition to the immediate death and suffering caused by these disasters, there are other long-lasting post-disaster impacts on public health, livelihoods and infrastructure. Many still feel the consequences of the 2007 cyclone Sidr that was possibly the strongest cyclone to hit the country since a cyclone killed over 143,000 Bangladeshis in 1991. Two years later, in 2009, cyclone Aila caused widespread devastation in southwest Bangladesh, claiming lives, destroying homes and leaving tens of thousands of people stranded in flooded villages. Still today, people are striving to rebuild their communities and improve their resilience.

Shatkhira assessment 3The precarious situation in these regions also complicates the supply of drinking water. Saltwater intrusion into deep groundwater reserves means that deep tube-wells cannot be used as mitigation for arsenic contamination. At the same time, cyclones and storms regularly contaminate surface water supplies with salinity thereby hampering many surface water based solutions. We have seen a large number of technologies that either broke down or became contaminated reflecting our observation that the arsenic problem is one of implementation and social justice. We hope that our initial surveys will eventually lead to the identification of a new working area.

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