West Bengal || Bangladesh
Middle Ganga Plain, Bihar ||
FIELD TESTING KITS FOR ARSENIC: HOW EFFECTIVE ARE THE MILLION-DOLLAR PROJECTS?
Arsenic Field Testing
The Government of West Bengal and UNICEF in their report writes in page- 22, "The monitoring cell will propose a computerised data base on the approximate 1,50,000 tubewells used for drinking water in the 68 arsenic affected blocks". The report further writes (page-3), "At present the affected blocks have about 22,000 public and 1,30,000 private tubewells".
SOES feels from their 10 years of field experience in W. Bengal that the number of private tubewells is much higher than what is reported by the government of West Bengal/UNICEF. For example, SOES has analysed 9080 tubewells out of 15,800 (our door to door survey) that exist in Deganga block of North-24-Parganas.
The project further reports, "One of the key activities of this project will be to test all tubewells used for drinking water supply both public and private for the presence of excess arsenic. On an average each block has about 2,200 such drinking water resources" (page-22, Report Government of West Bengal/ UNICEF).
Our question is that since the number of the private tubewells in the 68 blocks are much higher than 1,30,000, how will project achieve its goal with the present budget?
The W. Bengal Government/UNICEF report Annexure-IX writes, in no.-5: Total samples to be tested per block (per year, 2 rounds of samples) i.e. total - 4400 samples per block per year. The project is for 3 years, so it appears that every year, from each block, 4400 samples will be analysed.
The report further writes that the result from kits will be "Yes/No" (page-3).
It is surprising that to know 'Yes/No' for arsenic, every year 4400 samples from each block, for 3 years, will be analysed, i.e (4400 samples x 68 blocks x 3 years) = 897600 samples.
SOES is asking: what conclusion the project wants to draw after spending so much money from YES/NO data to be generated over 3 years from 897600 samples, knowing fully well that Field-Kit data for arsenic is based on Semiquantitative concept, and that at present we do not know the ± X value of Field-Kits that we can accept for 0.05 µg/l of arsenic.
Finally, in page-33 of the project report the name of Dr Dipankar Charkraborty, Director, School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta – 700 032, appears in the column for "persons consulted". But it’s a pity that Dr. Chakraborti was not consulted for this project.