Bangladesh is situated at the unique junction of the three major rivers – the Padma, Brahmaputra and Meghna. Because of its unique geographical location, the country has been gifted with rich biological diversity, accommodating a rich variety of flora and fauna in its ecosystem. However for the restriction of water flow created by barrages 95% of Bangladesh’s natural forest and 50% of its freshwater wetlands are lost or degraded. Moreover, severe droughts situation caused by water withdrawal of Ganges, showing low river flows and increased evapo-transpiration leads to a drought situation causing fresh water scarcity in northwestern region of Bangladesh. It changes hydrological, climate conditions and agricultural practices, which have gradually converted Bangladesh into a drought-prone country. The growing imbalances between water demand and supply in the dry season is deteriorating day-by-day, desertification syndrome has already started in the north western part of the country, causing hazardous environmental health.
Today, Bangladesh only survives the smallest area of protected and unbroken forest in the world, consisting of only 1.4% of landmass. Many terrestrial wildlife species have been lost and many freshwater fish species have been threatened national extinction. A country, which was once proud of its pollution free safe environment, is now being threatened by huge amount of air and water poisoning. 70% of Bangladesh residents depend on natural resources for their livelihood (It has been estimated that around one million people in Bangladesh depend on fishing for their livelihood.). Degradation of natural capital and biodiversity has a serious and direct impact on the food security, nutrition, health and income of the poor. The environmental glitches are more aggravated by deforestation, destruction of wetlands, and depletion of soil nutrients. Natural calamities like flood, cyclone and tidal-bore worsen the socio-economic and environmental condition of the country.
Waterborne diseases, such as cholera were once a serious threat to public health in Bangladesh. It was furthermore discovered that many tube wells across the country providing drinking water, were contaminated by arsenic, a poison that exists naturally in the alluvial soil of Bangladesh. Arsenic is a carcinogen, which causes many types of cancers (including skin, lung, and bladder) along with several cardiovascular diseases. Even at lower concentration arsenic contamination can lead to death in the region. By now an estimated 25% of the country’s 4 million wells are contaminated with arsenic.
The arsenic hazard in Bangladesh villages now appeared as a ‘real disaster’, affecting thousands of people health wise, physically, physiologically and economically; it is intensifying malnutrition, poverty and destitution among the already underprivileged villagers. The future of the people living in villages across Bangladesh is jeopardized with arsenic contamination in underground water. It is one such severe problem which the government is still working on. Even five years after the approval of National Policy for Arsenic Mitigation and Implementation Plan, two lakh people still face the threat of cancer every year due to intake of arsenic contaminated water, says a report of World Health Organization.
Disturbing findings show that there is unintentional poisoning of as many as 85 million of its 125 million people with arsenic-contaminated drinking water which puts seven out of ten Bangladeshis in the danger zone.
Non profit organizations like Touching Souls International and International Farakka Committee have taken important steps towards protection of the environment, as well as the lives of thousands of people in Bangladesh. They are running awareness programs to increase awareness among people about the health hazards due to arsenic poisoning and how important a safe environment is for a healthy living..