Millions of drinking water supplies in Bangladesh are contaminated with potentially lethal levels of arsenic. This discovery in the late 1990s sparked widespread international concerns and generated a substantial amount of funds. Yet, after more than a decade, the provision of safe water supplies and accessible arsenicosis treatment schemes remains inadequate. A lack of understanding of the origin and health impacts of arsenic is one of the many obstacles at the community level. There is evidence that arsenic poisoning affects particularly the poor due to their malnutrition and low health status. Moreover, technologies and medicines for treatment are often unaffordable or unavailable to them. Interventions in the water and health sectors must not only address these inequalities, they must also be integrated. It has long been established that treatment is of no use unless people first have access to safe water. The reverse is also true; shifting to safe water is often not sufficient to detoxify the blood and organs affected by years of gradual poisoning. A safe water supply must go hand in hand with long-term medical support for existing patients. This raises serious doubts about the sustainability of many of today’s efforts. Our paper describes the challenges by drawing from our experiences working with some of the poorer arsenic affected villages in rural Bangladesh.
In collaboration with the University of New South Wales and Burdwan University, we recently visited West Bengal (Bangladesh’s neighbouring region in India). It revealed very similar problems with the resolution of the arsenic crisis. The small-scale arsenic removal plant in the photo has been abandoned because no local arrangements were made to take care of maintenance.
This PhD research project was carried out under the Environmental Policy and Management Program, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales in close collaboration with AMRF (2006-2009). The poor in most developing countries are persistently marginalised in their living conditions, including their access to safe drinking water. The research objectives have been (1) to better understand why this state of affairs has endured despite decades of efforts and interventions, and (2) to propose more adequate alternatives. The central case study was concerned with drinking water in rural Bangladesh. For the full abstract and the option to download the dissertation, please click on the image or the link below.
AMRF researcher Crelis Rammelt participated in the inaugural Speed Thesis Competition organised by the University of New South Wales. One slide was permitted as a visual aid to assist in explaining the research to a mixed audience in less than 3 minutes.
About a decade ago, natural occurring arsenic was detected in the groundwater wells that people rely upon for their drinking water needs. In low doses, arsenic can lead to skin depigmentation, lesions and various forms of cancer. About 60 million people are at risk. Continue reading “Speed thesis presentation”
Have a look at our poster at the UNSW Well Being Research Showcase program. The diagram shows two basic processes: a physical and a social one. The physical process relates to technological and ecological assets; the social process to human and organisational assets. The processes run in parallel, and both roughly follow the three phases of surveying, organising and facilitating. The first phase leads to the selection of a village. In the second phase, AMRF assists the community with investments in new assets, such as a water option, a maintenance committee, knowledge, skills, and so on. In the third phase, AMRF’s direct involvement is reduced, as it begins to support activities leading to the sustainability of the water and health systems. The diagram represents work-in-progress, and will be elaborated as new findings emerge from practice.
This documentary is the result of a collaboration between the Arsenic Mitigation & Research Foundation and the Environmental Policy & Management program at the University of New South Wales. It provides an introduction to the arsenic calamity in Bangladesh and to some of the efforts to address it.
The Largest Mass Poisoning in History (2008). Videorecording. J. Merson and C.F. Rammelt. Dhaka, AMRF, Sydney, EPM Graduate Research Program at UNSW, JMA Production.
Published in UNIKEN, by S. Hamilton: As if devastating floods and grinding poverty are not bad enough, Bangladesh is struggling with an arsenic-contaminated water supply. Up to 70 million people are potentially drinking water contaminated by arsenic which occurs naturally in the regions underground water, according to Dr John Merson, Director of the Institute of Environmental Studies… Please read full article here.
The 165th anniversary of Delft University of Technology (DUT) in 2007 was dedicated to Sustainability and Development. One of the major activities was that ten persons from DUT travelled to a project that it was involved in setting up. These persons had a critical look to the role of the engineer and how the project is situated under the local conditions. The travellers wrote reports on their journeys that form the focal point of the jubilee book. One academic visited AMRF and reported on her visit during a presentation given in a SPARKS colloquium on 4 March 2008.