Focusing merely on research will not respond to the urgency of the arsenic problem. On the other hand, many uncertainties still hamper the implementation of adequate projects. Should the emphasis be laid upon better understanding of the problem in order to come up with the best possible approach, or should priority be given to address the problem now in order to save lives?
Obviously both should be done, but contrary to technical installations and medical treatment that can be delivered quickly, the process of setting up the necessary village institutions will take more time. The challenge is to streamline short- and long-term activities and processes. In our working areas, we found an overwhelming preference for deep tube-wells (and occasionally for dug-wells). These serve as quick mitigation (it takes only five days to install one). Deep tube-wells are also a means upon which people can start building and strengthening the necessary community-based organisations. We are also constantly developing and improving protocols for the identification, diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering from arsenic poisoning.
For further details, please read our initial 5-year program proposal (Phase I: 2006-2010) and our current 5-year program proposal (Phase II: 2011/2012-onwards). Details of the project activities under each phase are described here.
Learning by doing
The adoption of deep tube-wells also carries risk and uncertainty (see this research publication for further details):
- Massive water extraction might trigger the arsenic contamination of deep aquifers.
- Unequal power relations might inhibit participation of the poor.
- Economic limitations might hamper maintenance of the infrastructure.
- Gender aspects might restrict the mobility of women in the village.
- Arsenic might not be a priority when there are other more urgent sufferings.
The effectiveness of treatment of arsenic poisoning is uncertain as well (see this research publication for further details)::
- Medicine might be insufficient to detoxify the blood and organs.
- The poor can not afford regular consultations and expensive medication.
- Other health conditions might worsen arsenic poisoning, and vice versa.
- Due to social stigma, many patients might go undetected.
As development is multifaceted, new and often unanticipated problems inevitably emerge during implementation. There must be an opportunity for all participants to learn from that process. To achieve this goal, AMRF functions as:
- A facilitating organisation that provides a favourable environment for communities, academics and funding agencies to learn about the implementation process.
- A learning organisation that feeds research experiences back into the AMRF strategy, thus contributing to the formulation of subsequent steps in the implementation. This in turn opens the program up to a new range of experiences, problems and challenges.
Video about our program
(Post-)Production: Crelis Rammelt. Camera: Anton Rammelt, John Merson, Crelis Rammelt. Post-production supervision: Arno Beekman, RGBAZ. Supported by the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of New South Wales. Synopsis Development in Bad Waters.
Here is another video produced in 2008 in collaboration with the University of New South Wales Environmental Policy and Management Programme: The Largest Mass Poisoning in History, Arsenic Contamination in Rural Bangladesh