Many of us still don’t know the difference between charity and development. While the total amount of foreign aid to Bangladesh since its independence is nearing $50 billion, the income gap has continued to increase. The inequalities persist in a range of human living conditions, not just in a financial sense. This film is concerned with some of those living conditions, starting with health, access to nutritious food and to safe and reliable drinking water. These are matters of grave urgency since the discovery of arsenic in the water almost two decades ago. The film explores the many failures to reach marginalised people and communities as a whole.
However, the observation that the inequalities have not been effectively addressed despite the efforts should not be used as an excuse to stop; it should be used as an argument to start doing things differently. The most important inequality that will need to be reduced is in the power to decide over one’s living conditions. It is one thing to reach out to the poor with water supplies and medicine, but if nothing is done to the circumstances that created the inequalities in the first place, then we haven’t managed to move beyond the mere provision of charity.
The process of social mobilisation that the Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation is facilitating has started to empower those that are normally marginalised from decision making processes. Already there are several positive signals that this is strengthening the communities’ sense of control over their own lives.
Duration: 61 minutes
(Post-)Production: Crelis Rammelt.
Camera: Anton Rammelt, John Merson, Crelis Rammelt.
Post-production supervision: Arno Beekman, RGBAZ.
Music: flute and tabla (Bruce Miller) / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 With thanks to the generous support of our sponsors.
Prepared in collaboration with the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales.
In Bangladesh, polluted and irregular surface water resources prompted a national shift to groundwater for both agricultural and household use in the 1960s and 1980s, respectively. About a decade ago, natural occurring arsenic was detected in the shallow groundwater wells, exposing an estimated 20-60 million people, and putting food security at risk. For over half a century, policy-makers have debated the measures to water management and conflicting access issues. Arsenic contamination and climate change now add new uncertainties that complicate a discussion on sustainable use of water resources. Moreover, this debate takes place at the (inter)national level with little involvement of local communities and with meagre results and inequitable implementation. This paper presents a systemic overview of the uncertainties and inequalities in distribution of resources and ecosystem services. It then reviews some of the outcomes of an adaptive management programme undertaken by the Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation over the past four years. The findings are framed by the concept of Conservation and Sustainable Use, particularly by the Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines for the Sustainable use of Biodiversity. While these raise valid concerns in relation to equity, they remain to be informed by practical realities on the ground.
Published in New Matilda, by J. Arvanitakis: For an Australian, it is difficult to describe the sense of spending a few days in a Bangladeshi village. You simply give up avoiding clichés: the colours and the smells, the friendliness of the people, the poverty, the amazing food, the call to prayers… Please read full article here.
From 9-19 October 2012, two international workshops were hosted by the Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation (AMRF) in Dhaka and Munshiganj district. These were funded by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) International Research Collaboration Scheme and organised by the UNSW Institute of Environmental Studies (IES), the UNSW School of Humanities in collaboration with: Burdwan University, University of Hyderabad, University of Western Sydney, University of Kerala, Mumbai Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas. For more information see our workshop plan, photos and the IES Newsletter. The arsenic mitigation workshop was a follow up of a previous research visit to arsenic affected communities in India.
We are happy to announce that the Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF) will be providing capacity development support to AMRF (2012-2013). MJF is an initiative designed to promote ‘human rights’ and ‘good governance’ in Bangladesh. MJF will provide training on different issues to develop our organisational strength. We hope that this will lead to a longer term partnership.
From a Daily Sun news report: “Japan has decided to provide grant assistance of US$ 628,390 (approximately Tk 5 crore) to Bangladesh for seven projects under Grant Assistance for Grass-roots Human Security Projects (GGHSP). A contract-signing ceremony was held in this regard on Wednesday in the Japan Embassy where representatives of three projects out of seven namely Trust for Rehabilitation of Paralysed (TRP), Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation (AMRF) and Unitarian Service for Development and Peace (USDP) were present, says a press release.”