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SESSION 4 - Mitigation and sustainability of water supply in Arsenic-affected areas

SESSION 4 - Mitigation and sustainability of water supply in Arsenic-affected areas

(1) Identifying the preferred arsenic mitigation options in Bangladesh

Dr Guy Howard, Policy Advisor, Department for International Development
Dr Feroze Ahmed, Professor, Bangladesh Univeristy of Technology


Arsenic mitigation in Bangladesh has focused on the provision of arsenic-safe water supplies. The use of surface water and very shallow groundwater was encouraged in the National Policy for Arsenic Mitigation despite limited assessment of potential risk substitution. In 2004/5 a risk assessment was undertaken of a statistically representative sample of water supplies to estimate the disease burden, based on DALYs, associated with the four principal water technologies. Deep tubewells had the lowest disease burden and are the preferred technology from a public health perspective. Dug wells and pond sand filters showed elevated risks and require disinfection to meet acceptable levels of performance. Communities prefer deep tubewell technology and in practice they are the most commonly used. The findings illustrate that the stated preference in Government strategy documents should be revisited. The risk assessment also flagged the necessity of improving the currently inadequate knowledge of the quality of water resources in Bangladesh. The full extent of arsenic-safe deep aquifers and their recharge mechanism across Bangladesh remains unclear and available water quality data are of poor quality. As some surface water sources will have to be used, further work is required to identify the true availability of suitable surface water sources.

(2) Surveillance Program to Monitor the Use of New Water Sources in Rural and Remote Areas

Meera M Hira-Smith, Jane Liaw, Yan Yuan, Sekhar Pal, Cynthia Green, Alpana Hira Davidson, Timir Hore, Allan H Smith


Our experience in West Bengal, India, where large numbers of people have been exposed to arsenic in tube-well water, is that interventions to provide arsenic-safe water in local communities require on-going surveillance and monitoring. Without continuing monitoring and education programs, people may revert to their previous sources of water with the new sources being underutilized, and in some cases becoming non-operational. Since 2001, Project Well has constructed modified dugwells in a pilot program to provide arsenic-safe water to small, community-groups in West Bengal. Over the last six years, we have designed and implemented a Follow-Up/Surveillance Program, to monitor and evaluate the utility of the dugwells. The Follow-Up program includes regular monitoring of the wells and interviews concerning the use of dugwell water that has enabled Project Well to assess causes of dugwell underutilization. Modifications that have been implemented include chlorination of the water to reduce bacterial contamination. Interview surveys discovered that consumption reduced mainly due to chlorine odor that the villagers were not familiar with. The dose of chlorine has since been reduced and the remaining chlorine odor is removed with earthen filters. Dugwell water use has since increased. We conclude that all local small-scale community water interventions require ongoing monitoring.

Meera M Hira-Smith, Ph.D. (Geography)
Founder and Director
Project Well
web site:
Phone: (510) 530-6050

University of California, Berkeley
140 Warren Hall

Berkeley, CA 94720-7360

Tel: 510/843-1736 / Fax: 510/843-5539
Website at:

(3) Community Based Project to Mitigate Arsenic Pollution in West Bengal and Jharkhand, India

Dr. Sudhanshu Sinha, Diptarup Kahali and M. Satyanarayana


Alarming level of arsenic in the groundwater of eight districts of West Bengal and 2 districts of Jharkhand in East India has become a serious health hazard. The number of people suffering from skin lesions, muscular disorder and even cancer, is constantly going up. This is an acute 'environmental health' problem since the rural population in these districts is solely dependent on groundwater for drinking, bathing and cooking.

The source of the problem is geological in origin, which has aggravated due to excessive withdrawal of groundwater for paddy cultivation in the wake of the green revolution of the 1970s. India-Canada Environment Facility (ICEF), a development organization supported by CIDA along with All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health (AIIH&PH), a premier health institution of Government of India launched the first community-based arsenic mitigation project in July 1999 which ended in March 2007. ICEF's intervention has showcased a viable rural model that can be replicated in the Indian sub-continent.

The aim of this project has been to manage the problem with the help of local NGOs in 400 villages in Bengal, and 10 villages in Jharkhand. The project objective has been to empower the community to mitigate the problem through low-cost, low tech, sustainable solutions.

Standard Paper
Power Point Presentation

Dr. Sudhanshu Sinha
Senior Project Officer
India-Canada Environment Facility (ICEF)
B - 79, Sector - 53,
Noida - 201 303, Uttar Pradesh, India
Mobile: 981077-9159

Formal letter of acceptance required for visa purposes: Yes

(4) Analysis of net impacts on disease burden of arsenic mitigation in Bangladesh

George Adamson, University of Manchester
David Polya, Senior Lecturer University of Manchester


It has been increasingly recognised that calculation of the disease burden due to populations, such as in Bangladesh, extensively using hazardous arsenic bearing well waters, must explicitly account for the trade-off between diarrhoeal disease incidence and that of arsenic-related diseases. This is because it is likely that moves to alternative drinking water sources, be they surface waters or even more distant groundwaters, without further mitigation would result in a concurrent increase in diarrhoeal disease.

Our model, based upon that of Lokuge, suggests that mitigation simply involving the substitution of well water sources with As > 50 ppb would have a net positive impact on disease burden, as determined by Disability Life Adjusted Years (DALYs), but that the same mitigation for all the population exposed to well water arsenic as low as 10 ppb would, in contrast, have a negative impact. However, uncertainties in the dose-response relationship for arsenic uptake and the non-malignant high incidence conditions diabetes mellitus and ischemic heart disease means that the net impact on DALYs of such mitigation cannot be reliably determined at this time.

These calculations nevertheless emphasise the requirement for multiple mitigation strategies, including those directed at ensuring the microbiological safety of alternative water supplies.

(5) Road to Sustainable Arsenic Management in Bangladesh: The Deep Aquifer Issues

Professor K M Ahmed, Professor, University of Dhaka
Dr Guy Howard, Engineering Advisor DfID
Mr R Ogata, Arsenic Mitigation Advisor JICA, Dhaka


The extent and severity of arsenic occurrence in Bangladesh is well-known. Although various initiatives have been taken since 1993, only a small proportion of the exposed population have access to a safe water option. Deep tube wells supply more than 90% of the safe water in arsenic affected areas; risk assessments and functionality surveys confirm that that this option has lowest risk, and is most sustainable.

The Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) has initiated the development of a national deep aquifer database with preliminary maps. Although hundreds of thousands of deep tube wells are in operation, availability of good quality borelogs is very limited. Creation of the database is a step forward towards sustainable management of the deep aquifer. We shall critically review the concept of deep aquifer in Bangladesh; outline how the deep aquifer database was established; present preliminary deep aquifer maps; and discuss the major issues related to the sustainable management of the deep aquifer both for arsenic mitigation and as a vital natural resource for Bangladesh. We shall also highlight the existing policy and regulations regarding the deep aquifer and outline a management strategy to secure this strategic water resource for the future.