Arsenic contamination of groundwater is a natural occurrence in many parts of the world. This problem becomes severe in the delta region of the Ganges. The high concentration of arsenic in deeper levels of groundwater is causing serious arsenic poisoning to a large number of people. Bangladesh which lies in this region is facing the highest brunt of the problem. The problem is compounded by the fact that it is one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in the world with very few people having access to portable drinking water.
Arsenic is a carcinogen which causes many types of cancers including skin, lung, and bladder as well as cardiovascular diseases. Even at lower concentration arsenic contamination is leading to death in the region. UNICEF has come out with some disturbing findings with regards to Arsenic contamination of groundwater in Bangladesh. The findings state that there is probability of poisoning of as many as 85 million of its 125 million people with arsenic in drinking water which puts seven out of ten Bangladeshis in the danger zone.
According to the latest estimates about 1/3 of the tube wells in Bangladesh pump up water exceeding the arsenic standard of 50 ppb (parts per billion). In worst cases arsenic levels are alarmingly 2000 ppb or 40 times over the acceptable level for drinking water. It has been estimated that one out of five deaths in the South Asian nations is caused by arsenic. This figure runs into millions considering the high population density in the country.
Lack of awareness has been a major road block to many of the projects being run by the government as well as the non governmental organizations. Touching Souls International, a nonprofit organization has been running a major project educating the local people by giving lectures, leaflets and CDs in schools, colleges, market places to raise awareness about the arsenic in drinking water among people in the the rural areas.
Some of the salient features of the awareness project run by Touching Souls International are:
- Educating people not to fetch drinking water from the hand pumps which are marked red which are contaminated with arsenic. Break the myth that boiling reduces arsenic content in water
- Encouraging people to fetch water from arsenic free sources such as surface water, like pond, river, well and rain water. Teaching people the basic drinking water purification techniques like bucket treatment.
- Saving patients from the social stigma and breaking the myth that arsenic poisoning is not contagious. Supporting the disadvantaged people who are in a great risk of drinking water contaminated with high level of arsenic.
- Educating them on a diet to counter arsenic poisoning like food rich in protein with lots of vegetables, especially from cabbage family.
- Touching Souls International , the non profit organization is sponsoring journalists in Bangladesh who do research work on how contaminated water is effecting lives and betterment of the environment.
- Funding rural schools has been another major campaign for Touching Souls International. This platform is used to raise the awareness among children at a very early age.
These awareness campaigns have shown considerable results with the people being made aware of the gravity of the arsenic contaminated drinking water. A lot still has to be done to save Bangladesh from this deadly situation which is being touted by many as “largest mass poisoning in history”
Summary: Arsenic contamination of groundwater in Bangladesh has become a threatening problem. Touching Souls International has been running an awareness project to fight this deadly problem..