West Bengal || Bangladesh
Middle Ganga Plain, Bihar ||
27 days detailed field survey information from April 1999 to February, 2000
Field Survey: 10th February 2000 (District Gazipur)
Earlier, we had found that in the groundwater of Gazipur district arsenic above 0.05 µg/l. Arsenic patients were identified in village Khirati of Kapasia Police Station. Abdul Rab (M/35) (Photograph-46) was severely affected, and other than severe keratosis, he also had plenty of suspected Bowens.
There is a very big water body known as Goswabar Beel in Khirati. Villagers said that earlier people used to fetch drinking water from this beel where water is available throughout the year. During the rainy season, the beel gets connected with river Brahmaputra.
Field Survey: 10th February 2000 (District Kishoreganj)
In Bhairabpur Bazar (Pourosova), P.S. Bhairab, district Kishoregunj, we identified some patients who were taking drinking water from the Pourosava tubewell. This tubewell was installed about 40 years back and the affected people reported that it was the only tube-well in that area 40 years ago. And not only are they drinking from this tubewell but their parents and grandfather used to do the same. But recently, over the last 5-7 years, they are seeing skin lesions appearing on their bodies. Dr. Momtazul Hoque (Medical Officer, Thana Health Complex, Bhairab, Kishoreganj) said that during his childhood, his family drank from the same tube-well. Recently the tube-well was dismantled.
There is a jute mill in Police Station Bhairab in Kishoreganj district. About 1000 workers are working in this mill and there is a colony where some of the workers live. All the hand tubewells of this colony have been dismantled. So we could not get the concentration of arsenic people were drinking, but we got plenty of workers having arsenical skin lesions. Abdul Awar (M/40) is one of them (Photograph-47). He has both keratosis and melanosis.
Field Survey: 11th February 2000 (District Lakshmipur)
We had gone to village Daspara of P.S. Raµganj in 1996 for survey of arsenic patients. At that time, we detected high arsenic in drinking water. During that time, we could not get any information about arsenic patients. During this survey we identified many patients. Abdul Mannan (M/27) has skin lesions and is also suffering from Gangrene (Photograph-48). The arsenic content of his tubewell is 0.96 µg/l. Mr. Mannan was married about 6 years back and he has a daughter Tahamina (F/2). Mannan's wife Sufia (F/20) who has no arsnical skin lesions called us and narrated how quickly Mannan is getting worse. She asked us whether Mannan would be all right! We arranged to amputate his feet. This was recently done in Dhaka Community Hospital. Photograph-49 shows Mannan with his wife. We have found many unfortunate couples in arsenic affected villages. In village Ramnagar of Ramganj P.S., we identified a woman, Mafuja Begam (F/40), with arsenical skin lesions with predominant melanosis on tongue (Photograph-50) , which she noticed 2-3 years ago.
In Fatepur village we met Noorjahan (F/50), a woman with multiple ulcers on her body (Photograph-51).
Arsenic patient; Anima Begam (F/25, Vill: Chandipur Purba, P.S.: Ramgar) was married when she was 15 years old. Within one year of her marriage her husband (Photograph-52) sent her back to her parents.
Field Survey: 12th February 2000 (District Noakhali)
In the village of Roghunathpur, PS: Chatkhil, Dist: Noakhali, many people are affected (Abu Sahid Y/41, Sohag, M/15, Amina F/45 etc.).
Field Survey: 12th February 2000 (District Lakshmipur)
Village Paschim Somalia of PS Ramganj is highly affected. We could only make a partial survey. Parvir Aktar (F/30) is an arsenic patient. She has severe arsenical skin lesions (Photograph-53).
During the late afternoon, we came to a crowded local Bazar. We had identified many villagers at this Bazar. Kalumia (M/60) from Darbeshpur village was a serious patient, who had, along with keratosis, melanosis suspected multiple Bowens (Photograph-54).
A disaster in village Aiyanagar, PS: Ramganj, district Lakshmipur
When we reached Aiyanagar it was getting dark. Villagers (Photograph-55) who had come get them examined surrounded us and to have their water samples tested, for they were not aware which of their tubewells were contaminated. After some time we were examining the patient with the help of torchlight. Villagers were so keen that we could not leave without examining them. We found 30 patients with arsenical skin lesions out of 150 people examined. The villagers said that in that village there were about 1000 people and in every family there was at least one patient.
Iayanagar village should be surveyed properly to know the magnitude of the calamity Our survey could cover only an only a small part of the total.
In Iayanagar village, Anwar Hossain (M/30), Ebrahim Bhuina (M/45) and Maochana Mia (M/45) died and they had severe skin lesions. These were only a few cases of death out of many, the villagers said.
Children found affected with lower arsenic concentration
Comilla district's Eruani village of PS Laksam was surveyed. Eruani is a very big village. It has 3 parts: Madhyapara, Purbapara and Paschimpara. We could survey only Madhyapara and for a while Paschimpara. Normally, we do not find arsenical skin lesions in children unless the arsenic concentration in drinking water is quite high (around 0.75 µg/l) or the nutrition status is very poor, in which case a moderate arsenic concentration of around 0.5 µg/l can cause skin lesions in children. But in some villages of Bangladesh also in Madhyapara of Eruani village we have found children like Tahamina (F/8), Parvin (F/11) and Saiful (M/10), whose nutrition status appeared to be good, but have arsenical skin lesions drinking water having 0.25 µg/l of arsenic. All the children in Photograph-56, of Eruani village have elevated level of arsenic in hair, nail and a few have skin lesions.
Paschimpara of Eruani is highly affected. Here children are also affected - like Hasina (F/10), Nargis (F/8) (Photograph-57) who belong to a poor family and drink arsenic contaminated water having 0.17 µg/l of arsenic. Many villagers drinking that tubewell are affected. Villagers of Paschimpara are not aware of the arsenic concentration in their drinking water. Even a pregnant woman, Phulnar (F/23), who has arsenical skin lesions, also drinks, contaminated water (Photograph-58). However, the worse arsenic affected man of the village is Oidur Rahaman (M/30). He has severe keratosis (Photograph-59).
Village Eruani needs a detailed survey to know the magnitude of the calamity.
Even after our 239 days field survey during last 5 years in Bangladesh we feel we have seen the tip of iceberg of actual calamity. More we are surveying more and more affected villages and people suffering from arsenical skin lesions are coming to limelight.
Our most important observation is that people who had severe skin lesion during our earlier survey now are becoming victims of gangrene, cancer. Table-23 shows some gangrene/cancer patients we examined in different districts.
Table-23: Patients who have/had severe arsenical skin lesions and later suffering from gangrene/cancer.
We predicted and warned in 1994 about the danger of arsenic problem in Bangladesh, which later came true. We are again informing based on our last five years study in Bangladesh that situation is more alarming. To combat the situation we need a collaborative effort and proper management.
The complete report with Tables,
Figures and Photographs can be purchased (US $ 50).