Scientific American,Arsenic Crisis in Bangladesh
Arsenic Crisis in Bangladesh
Arsenic in drinking water could severely poison 50 million people worldwide.
Strategies being tested in Bangladesh might help prevent the problem
By A. Mushtaque R. Chowdhury for scientificamerican.com
A cold, clear, sparkling flow gushes from the tubewell where Pinjra
Begum used to collect drinking water for her family. Married at age
15 to a millworker, she had made a pretty bride. Soon, however, her
skin began to turn blotchy, then ultimately gangrenous and repulsive.
Her husband remarried. In 2000 she died of cancer, at 26 years of
age, leaving three children.
Pinjra Begum was poisoned by the beautiful water she had faithfully
pumped. In the 1970s and 1980s the Bangladesh government, along with international aid agencies spearheaded by UNICEF, undertook an ambitious project to bring clean water to the nation's villages. Too many
children were dying of diarrhea from drinking surface water contaminated
The preferred solution was a tubewell: a simple, hardy, hand-operated
pump that sucks water, through a pipe, from a shallow underground
aquifer. The well-to-do could afford them, and with easy loans from nongovernmental agencies, many of the poor also installed the
contraptions in their courtyards. A tubewell became a prized
possession: it lessened the burden on women, who no longer had
to trek long distances with their pots and pails; it reduced the
dependence on better-off neighbors; and most important, it provided
pathogen-free water to drink.
By the early 1990s 95 percent of Bangladesh's population had access
to "safe" water, virtually all of it through the country's more than
10 million tubewells--a rare success story in the otherwise
impoverished nation....continued at scientificamerican.com
Deborah Elaine Barrie
4 Catherine Street
Smiths Falls, ON Canada K7A 3Z8
deborahbarrie @ hotmail.com
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