Ganga-Meghna Brahmaputra || West Bengal || Bangladesh || Middle Ganga Plain, Bihar || Uttarpradesh
Jharkhand || North-East Hilly States || Rajnandgaon, Chattisgar || Behala, Kolkata, WB || As toxicity- Homeopathic Treatment
Effectiveness & Reliability - As Field Testing Kits || Utility Of Treatment Plant
Causes, Effects & Remedies - Groundwater As Calamity || References

Groundwater Arsenic Contamination in Bangladesh

Summary of 239 days field survey from August 1995 to February, 2000

27 days detailed field survey information from April 1999 to February, 2000

April 2000

School of Environmental Studies*
Jadavpur University
Kolkata - 700 032
Tel: 91 33 24146233
Fax: 91 33 24146266


Dhaka Community Hospital
Dhaka -1217
Tel: 880 2 9351190
Fax: 880 2 9338706

(From time to time between August 1995 and November 1996, SOES jointly worked with Geology Department, Rajsahi University, Rajsahi, Bangladesh, and NIPSOM, Mohakhali, Dhaka, Bangladesh in field survey)

*For correspondence: D. Chakraborti, Director and Head, School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta-700 032, India Tel:91 33 24146233, Fax:91 33 24146266,Email:

Arsenic Team worked in Bangladesh for field survey, Clinical investigation and analysis of samples

School of Environmental Studies
Jadavpur University, Calcutta - 700 032, India

Bhajan Kumar Biswas (Analytical Chemist), Uttam Kumar Chowdhury (Bio-chemist), Ratan Kumar Dhar (Analytical Chemist), Debapriya Mukherjee (Statistician) Dipankar Das (Analytical Chemist), Gautam Samanta (Analytical Chemist), Gautam Kumar Basu (Geologist), Tarit Roy Chowdhury (Analytical Chemist), Badal Kumar Mandal (Analytical Chemist), Chitta Ranjan Chanda (Analytical Chemist), Dilip Lodh (Microbiologist and Computer specialist), Partha Pratim Chowdhury (Soil Chemist), Anil Kumar Chakraborty (Analytical Chemist), Khitish Chandra Saha(Dermatologist), Subhas Chandra Mukherjee (Neurologist), Partha Kumar Roy(Pathologist), Gouranga Pramanik(Neurologist), Mongol Chandra Moulic (Economist), Subhas Chandra Santra(Ecologist), Dipankar Chakraborti (Environmental Analytical Chemist and Environmentalist).

Dhaka Community Hospital
Bara Maghbazar, Wireless Rail Gate, Dhaka-1217, Bangladesh

Sibtosh Roy (Pediatric), Abu Zafar (Dermatologist), Saiful Kabir (Dermatologist), Imtihaz Faruk (General Physician), Kazi Saiful Islam (General Physician), Md. Moniruzzaman Chowdhury (General Physician), Bashir Ahmed (General Physician), Anam Hossain (General Physician), Ram Dulal Bhowmick (General Physician), Mohammad Arif (Research Fellow), Ranak C. M. (System Analyst), Md. Salim (Field Attendant), Ashraful Alam (Field Attendant), Sohel Hossain (Field Attendant), Tapan Chowdhury (Field Attendant), Moshtafizur Rahaman Baka(Field Attendant),


In this report of 239 days field survey in Bangladesh during last five years, we will provide the following information

(a) So far from Bangladesh we had analyzed 22003 hand tube-well water samples from 64 districts. Our result for five years, up to February 2000 shows that out of 64 districts in Bangladesh in 54 districts arsenic in groundwater is above 0.01 µg/l and in 47 districts above 0.05 µg/l. So far we have identified 918 villages where groundwater has arsenic above 0.05 µg/l. So far 32 districts had been surveyed for arsenic patients and in 30 districts patients with arsenical skin-lesions have been identified.

(b) So far we had analyzed in total around 11000 hair, nail, urine, skin-scale samples from affected villages (about 50% of samples are from those having skin-lesions and rest 50% from those do not show skin lesions). Over all around 90% of people have arsenic in their hair, nail and urine above normal level.

(c) All total 17896 people had been examined at random from the affected villages for patients having arsenical skin lesions and 3688 (20.6%) have been so far identified with skin-lesions We have their full identification and details of skin lesions.

(d) So far 833 deep hand tube-wells had been analysed for arsenic from all over Bangladesh (depth about 100 m to above 400 m) and in 181 samples arsenic has been found above 0.01 µg/l (21.73%) and in 76 samples arsenic has been found above 0.05 µg/l (9.12%).

(e) Arsenic from 15969 tube-wells had been analyzed with depth (6.4 m to about 400 m) from 47 affected districts having arsenic above 0.05 µg/l and the result clearly shows at the beginning about 15-20 m there is increase of arsenic in hand tubewells and then with increasing depth concentration of arsenic decreases. This is also valid for individual 47 affected districts where groundwater contains arsenic above 0.05 µg/l.

(f) From the information we had generated during field survey about number of users of 16410 hand tube-wells in 43 districts of Bangladesh, we made a simple calculation to know the number of hand tube-wells that exists in 43 districts. The calculated value shows that in 43 districts of Bangladesh where groundwater contains arsenic above 0.05 µg/l the number of hand tube-wells are 3.5 million.

(g) We have also calculated number of people exposed to arsenic contaminated water above 0.01 µg/l and above 0.05 µg/l from 43 districts and the values are 51 million and 25 million respectively.

(h) Do the arsenical skin lesions disappear with chelating agent, safe water, nutritious food and multivitamins!

(i) What percent of actual arsenic patients in affected villages we could really examine.

(j) We have evidences now from West Bengal, India that more and more tube-wells which were once safe to drink are getting arsenic contaminated.

Our report will also tell about 27 days detailed field survey information from 159 Villages highlighting

1. Early death in affected villages to those having arsenical skin lesions
2. Social problem in affected villages due to arsenical skin lesions.
3. Problems regarding hand tubewells coloured red/green by arsenic field testing kits.
4. Mental agony to those wrongly identified by field workers as arsenic patient.
5. Actual magnitude of calamity.
6. Death and suffering from cancer and gangrene among those who have/had arsenical skin lesions.

Even after 5 years field survey in Bangladesh, we feel we have seen only the tip of iceberg of the actual calamity. More we are surveying more and more affected area and people suffering from arsenical skin lesions are coming to limelight.

The magnitude of the arsenic calamity in Bangladesh surfaced only recently. In February 1998, the Guardian (UK) detailed the magnitude of the arsenic contamination in Bangladesh; the local chief of the World Bank has stated that tens of millions of people are at risk, and that 43,000 villages out of 68,000 are presently are at risk or could be at risk in the future. In the same report, the World Health Organization (WHO) was quoted to have predicted that within a few years death across much of southern Bangladesh (1 in 10 adults) could be from cancers triggered by arsenic. After analysing 2000 hand tubewell water samples from the eastern, southern and western Bangladesh, the British Geology survey reported early January 1999 that approximately 21 million people in that country were drinking water with arsenic level above 0.05 µg/l. More recently, Prothom Alo, a Bangladesh daily, reported on 31 March 2000 the findings of a study jointly done by the British Geology Survey and DPHE- Bangladesh. After testing 3534 tubewell water samples from 61 districts of Bangladesh, the study found arsenic levels in ground water to be above 0.05 in 249 Police Stations in 53 districts. According to this report, 58% of the water samples contained arsenic above 0.05 µg/l and 91% above WHO guideline value (0.01 µg/l).

During 1992, the School of Environmental Studies (SOES), Jadavpur University, while working on groundwater arsenic contamination in West Bengal, India, noticed something unusual in Gobindapur village, block (P.S.) Swarupnagar, North 24-Parganas district, West Bengal. It was found that in one family none of the members was showing arsenical skin lesions except a woman who came to West Bengal from Bangladesh (Village: Bansdoha, P.O.: Fatepur, District: Satkhira) after her marriage.

On being interviewed, the woman said that many of her relatives in Bangladesh had similar skin lesions. She further said that she had seen similar skin lesions among a few of her neighbours and also in some people living in two neighbouring villages (Uttar Sripur and Tona). The SOES, in its report on West Bengal's arsenic calamity, had stated that Bangladesh, too, in all probability, was arsenic-affected. During our survey in the arsenic affected areas of West Bengal, we had come across people with arsenical skin lesions from the district of Nawabganj in Bangladesh, which is close to West Bengal's Malda district. In course of time, we began to get more and more information about the arsenic problem in those parts of Bangladesh that border the arsenic- affected areas of West Bengal. SOES analysed the hair, nail, skin-scale, urine of patients who came to Calcutta for treatment, and most samples were found to be rich in arsenic. Director, SOES informed UNICEF-Bangladesh and WHO-Bangladesh during 1994 (letters published earlier) that Bangladesh was, in all probability, arsenic-affected also and requested them to address the problem before it was too late.

Immediately after the international conference on "Arsenic in groundwater: cause, effect and remedy", held in Jadavpur University, Calcutta, India in February, 1995, medical people from Bangladesh hospitals started writing (letters we had published) to SOES that they had been getting, for some years, patients with similar skin lesions at the out-patient departments of their hospitals. But, the doctors stated they had failed to recognize them as arsenic patients. After the conference, more and more people suffering from arsenical skin lesions in Bangladesh started coming to Calcutta for treatment (patients came from the districts Faridpur, Nararanganj, Bagerhat, etc.). The patients who came to Calcutta for treatment, later brought hair, nail and water samples from their villages for arsenic analysis. During July 1995 Director, SOES, visited Dhaka and met officials of Health and NIPSOM and gave them the preliminary data on the arsenic affected areas of Bangladesh.

During August 1995, the Geology Department of Rajshahi University, Bangladesh (Prof. Hamidur Rahaman), worked jointly with SOES and analysed 600 water samples from a few bordering districts situated close to the arsenic-affected districts of West Bengal. Further two medical doctors (S.A. Ahmed and S.A. Hadi) from the National Institute for Preventive and Social Medicine (NIPSOM), Dhaka in Bangladesh also came in June 1996 with hair, nail, skin-scales and water samples. After that, SOES and NIPSOM worked jointly for 21days during August-October, 1996 on Bangladesh and covered 17 districts, collected 750 water samples, about 325 each hair, and nail and 20 skin scales from the affected areas and analysed them for arsenic.

In the meantime, representatives from the Dhaka Community Hospital, Bangladesh, came to Calcutta in November 1996 and analysed water, hair, nail, urine and skin-scale samples of arsenic victims from some districts of Bangladesh. For a detailed study, SOES carried out a joint survey with the Dhaka Community Hospital from 19 December 1996 to 7 January 1997 and covered 15 districts. Since then, the School of Environmental Studies is jointly working with DCH on arsenic groundwater contamination in Bangladesh.

Even after working 239 days in Bangladesh from August 1995 to February 2000, we still feel that we have only sighted the tip of the iceberg. Each time we did a survey, we got fresh information about new arsenic affected police stations and villages.

In April 1999, we had decided to survey all the villages in Police Station areas and districts from where we had information about people suffering from arsenical skin lesions. We decided to survey for 30 days - from April 1999 to February 2000. Ultimately, our survey lasted 27 days. The villages we surveyed had not been surveyed earlier.

Though we did a field survey for 27 days, we think we got to see only the surface. But we did get new information about 3 districts, 13 P.S. and 73 villages where we expect arsenic patients.

Finally, after about 5 years field survey in Bangladesh, it may be said without any shred of doubt that the arsenic calamity in Bangladesh is the biggest in the world. We feel that the magnitude of the problem in Bangladesh surpasses the aggregate problem of all the 20 countries of the world where arsenic contamination of groundwater contamination has been reported. A detailed survey on Bangladesh is needed to know the actual magnitude and severity of the problem in that country.