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Effectiveness & Reliability - As Field Testing Kits || Utility Of Treatment Plant
Causes, Effects & Remedies - Groundwater As Calamity || References

Arsenic Poisoning in Bangladesh

Reported work done by SOES-DCH

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When Bangladesh's Groundwater Arsenic Contamination was first detected


PHED-Bangladesh Knew About Their Arsenic Groundwater Contamination in 1993.

Recently in many reports and published papers it was mentioned that DPHE (Department of Public Health Engineering) -Bangladesh, first identified the arsenic groundwater contamination in Bangladesh in 1993.

A few examples.

(1) BGS in its report [ Groundwater Studies for Arsenic Contamination in Bangladesh. Phase I: Rapid Investigation Phase, Final Report, Main Report, British Geological Survey, Mott MacDonald Ltd(UK), January 1999 ] stated that
"The contamination of groundwater by arsenic in Bangladesh was first discovered by the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) at Chapai Nawabganj in late 1993 following reports of extensive contamination of water supplies in the adjoining areas of India."

But BGS did not cite the detail of the DPHE reference in their report . I mean complete DPHE reference ( year, date, no of samples analyzed, method used, concentration of arsenic in hand tube-wells etc. etc. ).

(2) Wadud et al. reported in his paper [ Arsenic contamination in ground water and its effect on human health with particular reference to Bangladesh. A. Wadud Khan, SK. Akhtar Ahmad, M.H. Salim Ullah Sayed, Sk. Abdul Hadi, Manzurul Haque Khan, M.A. Jalil, Rukshana Ahmed, M.H. Faruquee. Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine, 1997 16(1), 65-73 ]

"In Bangladesh the contamination of arsenic in ground water was first detected in the year 1993 in Baroghoria Union of Nawabganj District by the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE). Arsenicosis patients were however, identified for the first time through our survey in the same area during 1994 and 8 patients were detected."

(3) Smith et al. cited in his paper, [ Contamination of drinking water by arsenic in Bangladesh: a public health emergency. Allan H. Smith, Elena O. Lingas, Mahfuzar Rahman, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2000, 78(9), 1093-1103 ] the reference of Wadud et al ( the above reference). Wadud et al's paper is not in a peer-reviewed journal. It is the journal published by his organization.

I am asking from where I can get the detailed report where DPHE mentioned about arsenic problem in Bangladesh. I hope as BGS, Wadud et al and Smith et al. cited that reference and they should have the copy of the DPHE report with detailed water analysis, area, arsenic concentration, method used etc. so that as a reference it can be cited by other workers.

Bangladesh's top officials were present in the International Arsenic Conference during February, 1995 in Calcutta-India.

The following persons were present from Bangladesh in the international conference on "Arsenic in groundwater: cause, effect and remedy, 6-8 February, 1995, School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta, India"

Siddique MAB
Additional Chief Engineer
Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE)
Bangladesh, GOB official
UNUE, Dhaka, GPO Box 58
Dhaka - 1000, Bangladesh

Abdul Wadud Khan
Professor and Head
Dept. of Occupation and Environmental Health
NIPSOM, Mohakhali
Dhaka 1212, Bangladesh

Alex Redekopp
WHO Sanitary Engineer
C/O, WHO Representative
WHO, House No. 12, Road No. 7
Dhanmondi R.A.
Dhaka - 1000, Bangladesh

The interesting fact when in the conference the arsenic problem of Bangladesh was reported by School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University and presented the letter written to UNICEF (copy annexed), WHO (copy annexed). None of the top officials of Bangladesh admitted that Bangladesh government knew about their groundwater arsenic contamination.

The most surprising when in 1995 post conference report [ Post Conference Report: Experts' opinions, recommendations and future planning for groundwater problem of West Bengal, May 1995 of International conference on Arsenic in groundwater: cause, effect and remedy, 6-8 February, 1995, School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta, India ], Prof. Abdul Wadud Khan himself wrote (page 67),

"A similar investigation in Bangladesh should be carried out because same aquifers are existing in the two neighbouring countries.
School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University in India may organize training programme for the doctors, scientists from Bangladesh to develop knowledge and skill for carrying out research related to Arsenical Toxicity."

The same Prof. Abdul Wadud Khan writes in his publication [ Arsenic contamination in ground water and its effect on human health with particular reference to Bangladesh. A. Wadud Khan, SK. Akhtar Ahmad, M.H. Salim Ullah Sayed, Sk. Abdul Hadi, Manzurul Haque Khan, M.A. Jalil, Rukshana Ahmed, M.H. Faruquee. Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine, 1997 16(1), 65-73 ],

" In Bangladesh the contamination of arsenic in ground water was first detected in the year 1993 in Baroghoria Union of Nawabganj District by the Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE). Arsenicosis patients were however, identified for the first time through our survey in the same area during 1994 and 8 patients were detected."

When School of Environmental Studies (SOES) first came to know about the arsenic problem in Bangladesh and documents published.

Document (1)
SOES letter to WHO Bangladesh on March 20, 1994 (attached).

Document (2)
SOES letter to UNICEF Bangladesh on April 17, 1994 (attached).

Document (3)
In our Post Conference Report [ Post Conference Report: Experts' opinions, recommendations and future planning for groundwater problem of West Bengal, May 1995 of International conference on Arsenic in groundwater: cause, effect and remedy, 6-8 February, 1995, School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta, India ] we have reported showing area that are arsenic contamination in Bangladesh.

Document (4)
In the published report [ A preliminary status report on arsenic problem in groundwater of Bangladesh, School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta - 700 032, May 14, 1996 ] SOES writes (page 7),

"During our survey in Gobindapur village of Swarupnagar Block, North 24-Parganas in 1992, we noticed that wife of Sunil Mallick is predominantly suffering from arsenicosis while Mr. Mallick and his neighbours had no arsenic symptoms and also the water, Mr. Mallick and neighbouring were using had arsenic concentration less than 0.01 µg/l. This created some interest to know why Mrs. Mallick alone has become an arsenic patient. After proper investigation we came to know that Mrs. Mallick had the sink lesions before marriage, and also she was a resident of Satkhira, Khulna district, Bangladesh. She also told us that her mother and some neighbours who are residing across the border are also suffering from the same skin lesions. Considering the geological similarities of Bangladesh and West Bengal's arsenic affected area SOES predicted that the groundwater of Khulna, Jessore, Kushtia, Rajshahi which are adjoining to the arsenic affected area of West Bengal may be arsenic contamination."

DIPANKAR CHAKRABORTI
Director & Head, School of Environmental Studies
Jadavpur University, Kolkata - 700 032, India
Tel: 91 33 24146233, 24146760
Fax: 91 33 24146266
E-mail: dcsoesju@vsnl.com

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