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“Arsenic Contamination in the Rural Area: An Anthropological Exploration in Pillakhandi,”

Introductory Issues

1.1 Introduction
1.2 Topic Selection
1.3 Objectives of the Research
1.4 Selection of the study area
1.5 Literature review
1.6 Theoretical framework
1.7 Operational definition
1.8 Research method and technique
1.9 Research experience
1.10 Limitation of the research

1.1 Introduction
After independence, the government of Bangladesh undertook a massive program to provide bacteriological safe drinking water for the people of the country. As a result millions of shallow tube wells (hand pumps) were installed to extract safe drinking water. Extract numbers of the tube wells are not known but the number may be from 8 to 12 million. Simultaneously, for self-sufficiency in food, the cultivation of high yielding variety of rice spread all over the country and large number of deep and shallow tube wells for irrigation were sunk.

The latest information shows that in 61 out of 64 districts, tube wells in various percentages are producing water with arsenic higher than the national standard of 0.05 milligram per liter. In many Upazilas (sub-district) more than 90% of the tube wells are producing water that are not safe for drinking or cooking purposes. The problem of the arsenic contamination of the ground water became known from 1993 but unfortunately it did not get the proper attention till very recently. By this time more than 30 million people are already facing the problem and probably 70-80 million people are threatened with the problem. This shows the enormous magnitude of the problem faced by the country. Some other countries like India (West Bengal delta), China, Vietnam and Laos are also facing similar problem.

Arsenic is widely spread in the environment. Arsenic has found in the nature in organic or inorganic. It is a naturally occurring element. Pure arsenic is a gray metal like material, which is usually found in the environment combined with other elements such as oxygen, chlorine, and sulper. Arsenic combined with these elements is called inorganic arsenic. Arsenic combined with carbon and hydrogen is called organic arsenic.
Floods, tidal storms, famine and disease beset Bangladesh, one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in the world. Now it is confronting the accidental poisoning of as many as 85 million of its 125 million people with arsenic-contamination drinking water (the Independent, U.K., October 11,2000). The scale of disaster in Bangladesh is beyond that of the accidents in Bopal and Cheronobyle (WHO, 2000). The epidemic of arsenic related cancer has begun. The arsenic mitigation programme financed by the World Bank/donors is hopelessly subjected to inefficiency, bureaucracy, corruption, lack of capacity, lack of capabilities, lack of professionalism, etc (Hoorens and Koender, Deltf University, Netherlands, 1999). So far, no programme aid has reached the people.
Recent surveys showed that about 80 million people of the country are living under the risk of arsenic poisoning as the groundwater of a vast region contaminated with arsenic. The arsenic pollution is not only causing serious health hazard to the people, but also affecting the environment and creating social problems. Arsenic causes both physical and intellectual damage to the human beings.
The Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) first detected arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh in 1993. SOES tested water samples of 40000 tube wells in the affected area and found 58 tube wells containing above 1.0-milligram arsenic in per liter of water. But the national standard for drinking water in Bangladesh is 0.05-mg/l. The number of people drinking arsenic rich water in Bangladesh has increased dramatically since the 1970s due to well drilling and population. The analytical result show that in 143 thanas of these 42 districts, 61.9% of the water samples are not suitable for drinking as per the WHO recommended value (0.01 mg/l), and 55.6% of the water samples contain arsenic above the WHO maximum permissible limit (0.05 mg/l).
“The arsenic contamination in ground water is due to some geochemical changes- said Dr. Chakraborti. He explains, the so-called “green revolution” has been promoted to increase rice production since late 1970s withdrawing large quantities of underground water. As a result, water levels in wells drop, allowing oxygen to enter the ground and touching off a reaction that teaches out arsenic from pyrite in the soil.” A seminar held in Los Angeles on October 1999 at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), Dr. Majumdar is a chemist who has been active on the issue of arsenic contamination of Bangladesh tube well water. He identified the worst affected areas such as Madaripur, Noakhali, Lakxmipur, Sylhet, and Comilla region, especially his native Chandpur. He showed data that indicated primarily the shallow tube wells (less than 100 meters deep) are affected, although in a few cases wells below 300 meters had arsenic above acceptable levels.
At the same time as awareness of the extent of contamination of drinking water with arsenic in Bangladesh has been increasing, evidence of the serious long term impact of arsenic in causing human disease has been mounting in exposed populations in different parts of the world. Evidence, primarily from Taiwan and China, suggests that arsenic in drinking water poses the highest known environment cancer risks. In long term, consumption of drinking water containing around 500 mg/l of arsenic may cause 1 in 10 exposed person to die from arsenic caused cancers. In the short time, skin lesions resulting from arsenic are well known, but further work is needed to identify less obvious health consequences including neurological, respiratory, vascular and reproductive effects. Factors related to individual susceptibility to arsenic effects also wait to be identified. But while there are many research questions, the top three priorities in the huge exposed population in Bangladesh relate to stopping exposure. These include providing easily accessible alternative water sources, making sure there is community understanding about the use of the alternative water sources, and population monitoring to ensure that the exposure has indeed stopped. The consequences of human arsenic exposure on pregnancy outcomes and infant development are essentially unknown. These health outcomes will likely prove to be the most sensitive adverse health effects associated with arsenic exposure.
Arsenic contamination also creates some sorts of social problem in our country. Panic situation accelerates the social vulnerability of the affected people. Due to lack of existing knowledge and treatment facilities of arsenicosis people both affected and non-affected are in a psychological trauma. It can create various problems.
 In these respects an intensive investigation is essentials to find out the social significance of arsenic impact on the people of the study area. An intensive fieldwork with participant-observation is essential in this respect.                       

1.2 Topic Selection
Choosing a research with a topic “Arsenic Contamination in Rural Area: An Anthropological Exploration” of a frontier rural community of “Pillakhandi village”, the research consider specific reason which led to select the topics:

Arsenic contamination is a global problem now. It virtually appears on all continents. It occurs as results of geological processes and actives by man which include agriculture, manufacturing, mining, smelting etc. Contamination from food and beverage is also extensive.

In Bangladesh, high arsenic concentrations are suspected to exist so far in 53 districts out of the total 64 and people of 34 districts have been found to be suffering from various affections caused by arsenic pollution. The high probability zone, moderate probability and low probability areas of contamination together cover almost 60% of the total country area.

Arsenic found in the ground water in our country, which is withdrawn by tube wells as a cheap alternative water supply to prevent outbreaks of deadly diseases such as diarrhea and cholera. This water also use in irrigation. No testing was done, however, for potential dangers such as arsenic, which is both colorless and tasteless. Pillakhandi likes that type of area.

Most people of our country are not aware of this problem. Because most are rural people who are not concern and almost known little about this deadly contamination. The people of this study area are also unaware of this problem.

Humans are most sensitive to arsenic than animals. Intake of arsenic contaminated water effect health hazard. The symptoms of arsenic toxicity may take 8 - 14 years to be manifested in a person’s body after the patient starts drinking arsenic contaminated water which are called arsenicosis. The apparent symptoms of arsenicosis may be said to have manifested themselves as melanosis and keratosis mainly. People of the study area are drinking the tube well contaminated water. Because they have no alternative source of safe drinking water.
All Those characteristics are influenced to select this topic.

1.3 Objectives of the Research

           The Bangladesh arsenic contamination is possibly the largest mass poisoning case in the world now. The ‘Green Revolution’ has been identified theoretical to be the recent cause of the problem, which has involved large-scale unplanned withdrawal of ground water. Arsenic is both toxic and carcinogenic. Inorganic forms of arsenic dissolved in drinking water are the most significant forms of natural exposure. Clinical manifestations of arsenic poisoning begin with various forms of skin disease, and proceed via damage to internal organs ultimately to cancer and death (UK Department for International Development (DFID)). So, it is a disaster for human beings. For this, it is argent to testify groundwater. Most of our people are not aware arsenic contamination of groundwater and arsenic related diseases. They are taking contaminated groundwater. Even if they know about it, they take that contaminated water, because of not availability of alternative source of drinking water. The contaminated areas are increasing gradually. The study area is like that kind. It is the vulnerable and marginal side of our country. People of this area are illiterates and live on below the poverty limit. Although there are few N.G.O., for example BRAC, GRAMMEN BANK, SHOTODOL (local n.g.o), SHIMANTIC (local n.g.o), but only two of them have done one observation in this area before two years ago.                                                                                                                            
            Thus, this research attempts to address the following general and specific objectives related to arsenic contamination in the study area:

The impact of arsenic contamination, which effects on socio-cultural structure, perception on the selected region, that is, how the people respond towards a new threat.
To know how much concern about the arsenic contamination of the selected people.
To explore the social sufferings of the selected people.
To identify socio-economical impact of arsenic contamination, that is, availability of alternative water source and its cost, community response and taking any action to this threat.
To understand the people’s cultural and behavioral response to the new illness symptoms due to recent ecotoxication of Arsenic.

1.4 Selection of the Study Area
            For social science research, it is very important to select a specific field for collecting a primary data. In Anthropological research method, it must be micro level view of any particular element of the society and it must be microscopic view. For conducting this attempt, it has been done in this research and selects a specific field. In the “Arsenic contamination in a rural area: detail observation”, the researcher has selected “arsenic contaminated area of Sylhet division in Jokhigonj Upazila’ one of the frontier village name: “Pillakhandi.” It was information rich area of Syllhet division. Thinking about Anthropological research method, this area was selecting for the following reason:
The area is most affected by arsenic contamination in Sylhet region. Not only that it the marginal and boarder side area in Sylhet region. It is about ninety Kilometer far from the Sylhet. The infrastructure of this area is worse.
Most of the people of this area are not aware about the arsenic contamination and arsenic related disease. Many of them are illiterate.
In Sylhet, there has done few works for arsenic contamination. But this region is not out of danger. Pillakhandi like that kind of area where one survey had been done since two years ago for identifying the arsenic contaminated tube wells by Public Health complex. The work has not extended and they did not create any awareness about arsenic contamination. For this reason, people of this area are drinking contaminated water because of unavailability of alternative of safe drinking water. Thus this area is taken high priority for research about arsenic contamination.
The village was small and boarder side vulnerable area. Large number of household are drinking and cooking contaminated water. In this respect, great health haphazard will be occurred, if there are not take any action for arsenic mitigation in this region.
People of this area are not aware about arsenicosis diseases and how arsenic could be affecting our body. So it is unknown for them. People are not telling about arsenic diseases. In this research, it was observed.  

The above mention characteristics were considering for selecting this research area.        

1.5 Literature Review
            Every research has to need a guideline, which helps to understand and analysis research related materials. This guideline can be implying into primary and secondary understanding. For secondary analysis and understanding related issues and theoretical understanding, researcher has to review some journals, books, article etc. This review that helped to construct a theoretical framework and different research issues. In this research following articles, journals and books were studied.
In the “Global ecology” edited by Charles H. Southwick, one of the essay “Groundwater Contamination: local problem become a national issue” written by Laura Tangley (1984) has showed how groundwater was effected and its characteristics. In this essay, he explained groundwater what is the vast natural resource. This natural resource has contaminated for its character that is, the water moves, anywhere from a few feet to just a fraction of an inch per day (p-142). He also showed words of another specialist of groundwater, Jay Lehr, the executive director of the National Water Well Association and hydrogeologist who has studied groundwater himself for 30 years.
This also explained groundwater quality can differ sharply from place to place. For this, contaminations vary locally. Its result becomes the multiplicity and diversity of contaminations.
This text is research oriented. One may find about how the groundwater contaminated and its multiplicity in this article. In this text, anyone finds comparable analysis of groundwater and surface water. It explained how those two kinds of water contamination vary. Chlorinated compounds used as industrial solvents and degreasers, TCE, tetrachloride cause 80% of groundwater contamination problems (p-142). The author concerned about ground water contamination because this resource is valuable for us. Basically, it explained underground water of US (united states). From this article, researcher can understand use of ground water similarity between Bangladesh and US. Because, the author argued that in US, all rural residents rely on tube wells for drinking water and its use is increasing day by day, this situation is also similar in Bangladesh.
In this article, author said that tube wells water is poisonous at high concentrations, because most of the synthetic organics detected in it. But this water is not tested before drinking. So, people are affected after drinking that contaminated water.   
            Another writhing “What is Ecology” written by A. F. Owen has several articles about ecology. In this first article, ecology has been illustrated. The writer told that ecology now is the household word. Most think that ecology is another word for pollution or the conservation of rare animals. Others look it as something of a political plot against economic growth. The author described it as that above thinking, because people concern about ecology. Moreover, ecology has been affected variously and different kinds of ecology transition have been occurred and people are observing and facing those conditions. Now-a-days, industrial production has been rising rapidly. At the same time, industrial pollution has occurred together with the industrial production. That is stated in this writing. Most of the pollution has been occurred from waste products of the manufacturing. It also stated the agricultural pollution, which has been resulted from the accumulation of toxic chemicals derived from pesticides and fertilizers. However, it was not stated how we may recover from this panic situation.
In “Environment Friendly and Development” edited by T. N. Dhor, Bishen Singh, Mahendra Pal Singh (1994), has a several articles about environment and ecology. In one of its article, the author differentiated the wealth sharing partiality. Where mentioned that various individual and regional differences in man’s ability and opportunity to exploit resources. Two third of the world’s population live in poverty while the remaining third in the economically developed countries live in comparatively luxury. The poor people consume a relatively small amount of the world’s non-renewable resources; many are sick and suffer from a shortage of calories and protein; and their rate of population growth is more than twice that of rice people of developed countries. Arsenic contamination in ground water has been occurred mainly in the rural area of our country where poor and illiterate people are living. Withdraw water from the ground is the easier and available for that people. Besides, there have no perfect alternative sources for collecting water. Thus, after drinking polluted water, people are suffered. On the other hand, they are economically backward condition; they cannot get modern health facility. In rural area, there are not proper health care opportunities. Our political and economical systems do not permit a fair distribution of wealth and resources and opportunities. 

In another article “Thinking Ecologically”, where described ecological balanced condition as well as man and others organisms interaction with environment. In this article, the writer illustrated that it is clear and evident that all organisms modify to some extent the ecosystems in which they live, which is proven by ecological theory. It is also true that man is the greater community who modify the environment mostly. In this article, there is described different exploitation on environment such as nuclear war; agricultural changes for grow more production. At that time, food is produced not only to feed but for profit. All over the world traditional methods of agriculture growing crops for oneself – have been or are being abandoned and the land developed for the large-scale production of commercially important crops. This commercial thinking affects our global environment. For this purpose, that is, irrigation system has developed where lift up water from ground by technology. But we are concerned about the ground water which level has been lower than before.
In the ecological terms the creation of monocultures means that eliminating all but the desired species reduces the natural diversity of ecosystems. When an environment is simplified by the development of a monoculture most species disappear as their resources diminish, but few are able to exploit the new circumstances. The author felt deep concern about poisoning the environment with pesticides which also has unexpected ecological consequences. On the other hand, from what we now know of the complexicity of food webs and the ways in which materials are recycled in nature, we can be sure that poisoning an environment has widespread effects elsewhere.

In the essay “Man’s Ecological Inequality”, where has been mentioned that 1200 millions people still lack access to safe drinking water or health care, 700 millions do not have enough food, and 250 million living in urban housed (source: in 1977 world bank estimation). But those figures may not be entirely accurate, other organization produced different. The author also said that aid and investment agencies are claimed to promote economic development, but nearly always they involve nothing but increase exploitation of resources. Bangladesh has become an experimental station of Western countries. Thirty years ago, In the 1970s, international agencies headed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) began pumping millions of dollars of aid money into Bangladesh for tube wells to provide “clean” drinking water. But aiding that money for serving safe water, they had deep exploitation thinking. That is, we third world technologically backward country have to bring technology from them by which we lift up water from ground for drinking safe water. Not only that, the industrial countries now heavily dependent on other people’s resources.
European has reduced the indigenous people in numbers by a variety of methods, including war, confiscation of land, and accidental introduction of diseases and in place like Brazil by hybrization on such a scale that local identity has been almost lost. In other areas like South Africa, the indigenous people have been inhabited from making use of their own resources and their own environment. The new Brazilians (of Europeans, Africans, and hybrid origin) together with international entrepreneurs from a wide array of countries are systematically destroying the life-style of “indigenous Indians” in the interest of development. In Brazil, there are huge destruction of natural ecosystems and degradation of human life. Few argued that this form of “cow boy” economy would disrupt the recycling of water and other essential materials. Obviously, there are not late to disrupt the all aspect of environment that has started from this century. Those exploitation and changes were descried in this writing, which helped to understand global environment as well as pollution of our essential element “drinking water”.       

“The fate of Arsenic in the environment” edited by M. Feroze Ahmed, M. Ashraf Ali, Zafer Adeel (February, 2003), incorporated fifteen articles. This publication was a compilation of papers presented at the BUET-UNU international symposium on “Fate of Arsenic in the Environment”. The papers broadly described the fate of arsenic extracted through tube well water and transported with surface water, its presence in water soil, plant environment and food chain. The leaching characteristics of arsenic from arsenic rich sludge were also described in the papers. Those papers were research-oriented and papers served rich information about all sides of arsenic contamination. For this, this book helped to build this arsenic-oriented research and understand how arsenic pollution has occurred.

In one of the article “Fate of Arsenic Extracted with Ground water” edited by seven authors, at the Department of Civil Engineering, in BUET, explained arsenic extraction from ground water. In this paper, it was stated that in Bangladesh, high level of arsenic have been detected in 59 out of 64 districts; the southern, south-western and north-eastern regions of the country are worst-affected. In Bangladesh, tube well water extracted from shallow aquifers is the primary source of drinking/cooking water for most of its population, particularly the rural population. This paper revealed an assessment of the use of ground water for irrigation in Bangladesh and served an assessment of the amount of arsenic that was extracted with ground water used for irrigation as well as domestic purpose. This paper also provided an overview of the research needs for better understanding of the fate of arsenic in the environment. For this, it was much helpful for understanding the situation of our country about arsenic contamination.

            Another essay “Influence of upstream Sediment on arsenic Contamination of Ground water in Bangladesh” was written by three writers, name, Mohammod Aktarul Islam Chowdhury, CEE Department, SUST, Sylhet, M. Feroze Ahmed and M. Ashraf Ali, Department of Civil Engineering, BUET, Bangladesh. It was also research-oriented. The authors were observed the sediments of several rivers. They argued that the reducing environment in recently deposited sediments in flood plains appeared to be the main cause of arsenic dissolution from soil to ground water in Bangladesh. Moreover, the old sediments and oxidized reddish soils in Bangladesh do not release arsenic; rather they absorb arsenic from water. In this context, presence of significant arsenic in the recent incoming upstream suspended sediments carried by river flow and flood water and sediment deposited in the river flood plain of Bangladesh significantly has influenced the arsenic contamination of ground water in Bangladesh.  From this article, we can also know about arsenic content in surface water and arsenic in total sediments. This research-based article was valuable and concrete finding for understanding arsenic contamination in ground water. All those information helped researcher to collect data from the selected field.    

           The book “Arsenic Mitigation in Bangladesh” edited by prof. M. Feroze Ahmed and Chowdhury Mufad Ahmed (September, 2002), including five chapters, but first fourth chapter were important. Beginning of the first part, there were several recommendations about arsenic contamination, that is, what we have to do for arsenic pollution. From that, the researcher got knowledge about “Arsenicosis”, the disease of arsenic contamination. The authors described arsenicosis as a chronic condition due to prolonged exposure of arsenic above safe level usually manifested by characteristic skin lesions with or without involvement of internal organs and malignancies. In this paper, there were described the signs and symptoms of arsenicosis which helped to find out arsenicosis patient. For this, this book helped the researcher to get arsenicosis patients in the selected field. In this paper, it was also described the alternative sources of water supply. There were several recommendations for preserving water from different sources such as deep tube wells, dug/ring tube wells, rainwater harvesting etc.

The next chapter “Hydrogeology and Arsenic Contamination in Bangladesh”, prepared by M. Nazrul Islam and Md. Nehal Uddin, illustrated the geology of Bangladesh, different period’s sediments, aquifer systems in Bangladesh, distribution of arsenic in ground water of Bangladesh and few recommendation for recovering this situation. The writers argued that the distribution of arsenic in the ground water is related to the geology of the country rather than depth.

 “Millions in Bangladesh face slow poisoning from arsenic-contaminated water” By Liz Mantell (2 December 1998), addressed different researcher study. He mentioned one the renowned researcher, name, Dr Dipankar Chakraborti, who has been studying arsenic contamination for over a decade, maintains that more than 50 million people are at risk and thousands are already showing symptoms of poisoning. He also described the affection of arsenic contamination, where children are at risk. He showed Dr Mahmududur Rahman’s observation of the Dhaka Community Hospital in Bangladesh: "Children under 15 constitute 45 percent of the population, which means that out of the 50 million feared affected almost 20 million are children." He described the UNICEF activities about arsenic contamination. 

The article “The Arsenic Crisis in the Asian Region” written by Prof. Motoyuki Suzuki Vice Rector, UNU ESD, illustrated arsenic contamination in ground water. In this article, he described that The estimated number of people drinking arsenic-contaminated groundwater are of astonishing proportions: more than 35 million in Bangladesh, more than 1 million in India and more than 100,000 in Nepal. He felt deep concern about the arsenic crisis, which indicated the importance of water resource management in the Third World countries. That article described in the broad sense, by which anybody can understand the situation of arsenic contamination shortly.

1.6 Theoretical Framework
Every research follows a way by which it can develop its thinking that is, research should follow its corresponding theory, because of its analysis. In the research “Arsenic contamination in rural area: An Anthropological exploration in Pillakhandi,” is related with environmental hazardous. Because arsenic contamination is ecological consequence on earth, therefore researcher must follow the ecological theory for observation. So, this research follows Andrew P. Vayda’s ecological theory and others corresponding ecological thinking. It also makes health problem by taking arsenic contaminated water. So, it is another issue in this research paper, which effects socio-cultural structure, man-to-man relationship, socio-economic structure and especially health problems are great sufferings for this new threat. Thus, we must think about how people take care them from this suffering. In this research paper, the researcher has brought Kleinman’ model “Patterns of Resort” for explaining health seeking behaviour.
For understanding ecological consequence, the researcher employed Vayda’s ecological explanation. He explained the human actions and their environmental effects. For this understanding, we have to understand “ecology”, that is, what is ecology. In general, ecology is the condition of a particular area where the elements of that area make a single functional unit, that is, they are interrelated. Ernest Haeckel defines ecology in his book of “History of Creation” (vol.11, 354),
“Ecology is the science of correlations between all organisms living together in one and the same locality and their adaptation to their surroundings.”
R. Hesse, W.C. Allee and K. P. Schmidt define ecology in their writing of “Ecological Animal Geography”,
“Ecology is the science of the relation of organisms to their surroundings, living as well as non-living: it is the science of the domestic ecology of plants and animals.”
In ecology, where describes human interaction and their relation with environment is called human ecology. It represents the specialization within the broader field of ecology. Man is the powerful creature in this earth. He has an extensive control over his surroundings. He can modify and reconstruct his environment through invention and the use of tools. It constitutes man as object of special inquiry and makes possible a human as distinct from a general ecology.
Andrew P. Vayda illustrated human interaction with environment in his writing “Methods and Explanation in the study of human actions and their environmental effects” (Events, Causes, and Explanation: Studies in Anthropology And human Ecology). He emphasized ideas, values and ideals of human thinking on environment. By illustrating that, he pointed out Lynn White’s view, which is that western cultures have an ideal of conquest and exploitation of nature, which has produced our ecological crisis, differs from eastern ones. He also argued that most environmental consequences of human actions are unintended. For this, he gave few examples. In this research, arsenic contamination of groundwater can be unintended in that sense. The roots of the problem go back to the early 1970s when most Bangladeshis living in the countryside relied on surface ponds and rivers for their drinking water. Sewage bacteria, however, unleashed a battery of water-borne disease, which killed a quarter of a million children each year, according to the World Bank (source: Bangladesh’s arsenic poisoning: who is to blame? Fred Pearce, U.K.-based science journalist.). So UNICEF sought to solve the problem by instigating a massive tube well project to tap into underground water sources. But it was not tested. So, people were affected by drinking groundwater, though people thought this water is safe. From that, it is noticed that from saving people to drink polluted surface water, people again drunk unsafe contaminated water. But it is the biological need for us. So, in that point of view, it is unintended.
 For understanding environmental changes, A. P. Vayda illustrated evenemental or event ecology, which is alternative from political ecology. Event is an incident, that is, things that happens. Briefly, it can be understood that event ecology is a causal explanation of environment depends on an incident. For explaining this concept, Vayda gave few examples. Rappaport’ “Pigs for Ancestor” one this example, which based on Rappaport’s research work in New Guinea that is presented at the 96th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association by A. P. Vayda. In Kaiko Tsembaga tribal group, they slaughtered pigs for remembering their Ancestor. So, they preserved pigs. Sometimes those pigs invade and damage garden. Therefore, garden-owners killed or shoot the pigs. Vayda argued that was ecosystem regulation to keep pigs number within the carrying capacity by human actions, which was the events. He emphasized that such causal chains constituted in itself causal explanation. Human actions also can impact on environment, which affects our environment. Arsenic contamination in groundwater is also like that kind which leads to some geographical change. Suppose “green revolution”, it has been promoted to increase rice production late 1970s lift up large quantities of groundwater. As a result, water levels in tube well dropped, allowing oxygen to enter the ground and touching off a reaction that leaches out arsenic from pyrite in the soil. In this case arsenic contamination is event and the causal explanation is environmental disaster of geographical change.

            Arsenic contamination in groundwater is gradually increasing and for that, people sufferings are day to day go beyond. It can be explained from wider context, that is, how it affects our underground water, after affection what happened, what is doing suffering people, what is the view about this contamination, what will be happened next and etc. Theses questions can be divided from two points. Two points are before contamination what was the situation and after contamination what has been happening, what will be happened. These thinking can be explained one of the concept that is progressive contextualization which Vayda explained in the article “Progressive Contextualization: Methods for Research in Human ecology”. He explained it as a wider adoption of certain procedures which means that how different conditions have been changing in few particular procedures. He focused on significant human activities or people environment interaction and explained that as a progressively wider or dense context. As an anthropologist, he illustrated different human interactions with environment which is not explained other discipline like biology. Progressive contextualization is of course consistent with these new directions in ecology, human ecology and related fields. From analyzing this concept, it may be found that why different changes have been happening, who is doing what, why they are doing it and etc. This concept is not unchanged and stable phenomena.
            It may be method for explaining the environmental hazard: “arsenic contamination”. It is ecological consequence. People misuse environment and create that situation which is an over interaction between human and environment. After industrialization, industrial wastes fell on water or soil, which penetrate on the ground water. Thus, those affect that water. Not only that for increasing food production, people use fertilizer, pesticide, insecticide and etc, those also leach into ground water. Besides, for drinking fresh water, people withdraw a huge amount of groundwater that makes water level lower than before. For this, oxygen has been allowing to enter the ground and touching off a reaction that leaches out arsenic from pyrite in the soil. People drink tube well water for drinking fresh water. It is the interaction between man and environment. But in the few areas of our country, groundwater has been contaminated with arsenic. When people of that area take arsenic contaminated water, they will be suffered with arsenic related sufferings. It will be spread out when wide numbers of people take arsenic contaminated water. It means that it has been occurred human activities or people-environment interaction, which influences different parts of social structure or organization like family relationship, male-female relationship, community response. It is also the new threat of this world. In our country, rural people are mostly affected. Most of our rural people are illiterate. Thus, they are not proper concern of this new threat. After drinking arsenic contaminated water, they are suffered by various kinds of health problem as skin lesion, skin cancer, internal cancer of bladder, kidney and lungs, neurological effect, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus, pulmonary disease and peripheral vascular disease (source: Bulletin of the WHO, 2000, 78(9)). But most people do not take it seriously and they think that it is normal health problem. They take few rural health cares from rural healer like khobiraj, moulovi and shaman. It can be explained by the concept of progressive contextualization.

In Bangladesh, there are three main source of water, namely, surface water, ground water and rainwater. The latter two sources in their natural condition generally meet the criteria of drinking water. They are usually consumed directly without treatment. Harnessing of ground water is cheaper and safer in comparison to rain water. On the other hand, surface water is plenty in monsoon but scarce in dry season and it is highly polluted. Thus it cannot be consumed without prior treatment and is relatively complicated and expensive. Unfortunately, when most of the people have developed the habit of drinking ground water through more than 8 millions of tube wells, arsenic has been detected in unacceptable concentrations in tube well in 61 out of a total of 64 districts of Bangladesh (source: Arsenic mitigation in Bangladesh, edited by M. Feroze Ahmed and Chowdhury Mufad Ahmed, page-60).  Different surveys have indicated that about 30% of the wells nationwide are affected. Numbers of people are now at risk of consuming arsenic contaminated water. Till date, nearly 15,000 cases of Arsenicosis patients have been identified. Most of the people of rural area are affected. They are uneducated and take different kinds of health care. It can be explained by Kleinman’ model which is called “Patters of resort”. He had told two patterns of health seeking behaviour for getting better from diseases. In his model, he illustrated at beginning of the illness, it was first self-treated, often within the family network. If sick people do not get relief, then they go to pharmacists or folk practitioners. His two patterns of health seeking behaviour were Simultaneous resort and hierarchical resort (source: Health seeking behaviour and utilization of health services). First resort had been taken when several treatment options were used at the same time and the latter took when different health care choices were made sequence through the various sectors of health care.
Kleinman also said about the concept of the popular, folk and professional sectors. He explained the popular sector as a lay, non-professional domain where illness is first recognized and treated. Self- care has been taken in this part. Another sector has been constituted of local healer such as herbalists, bonesetters, spiritual healers, diviners and traditional birth attendants, called folk sector. The last sector is the specialist domain where medical consultants have knowledge about the disease. Those health-seeking behaviors may have been depending on one’s socio-economic condition; one’s perception and various kinds of elements may be related with health care choice.
From this above discussion, it has known that several kinds of health care option are existed in one social structure and people can chose any one of them which depends on various aspect such as socio-cultural condition, economic condition, gender identity and cultural concept and perception. If the disease is new and unknown, then people treat with it variously. Arsenic contamination in ground water has recently occurred. In 1993, it was first detected in Bangladesh. Thus, sufferings of the arsenicosis diseases are new and people are not aware of those diseases. In our country, mostly rural people are suffered. Many people take care from rural healer such as moulovi, shaman. But when they are not cured, then go to specialist doctors. But it is rare case. Because this treatment is expensive, most people cannot bear its costs. Besides, many times people are suffered by socially. Arsenicosis has been creating serious social problems for the affected people. In rural area, affected people become isolated from the society where nobody wants to keep any social contact with him or her. Nobody wants to marry any arsenicosis patient where women are suffered most. Some affected housewives are even divorced by their husbands. Affected school children become victim of avoidance by their teachers and classmates and often they are not allowed to attend in their classes. Due to ignorance, the rural people consider arsenicosis diseases as the curse of God. Some think that it is the punishment for sin. For this, sometimes people hide this health problem, especially women.
Man and nature are closely related with each other and influence each other. Man can modify their environment by themselves. Often this modification effects environment and brings ecological crises. When men interact with environment, then that affects human beings. Arsenic contamination has been happened by this way and which affects human beings. All those are happened by man action and interaction with environment. Above approaches help to understand and analysis of this research “Arsenic contamination in rural area: an anthropological exploration in Pillakhandi”.               

In this research paper, there are various conceptual issues, which may be new for reader. Those are explained in this paper, as if reader must understand the actual meaning of those conceptual issues.
Arsenic: Arsenic is naturally occurring element. Its atomic number – 33, atomic weight is 74.92; Chemically, arsenic is always present as compounds with oxygen, chlorine, sulpher, carbon and hydrogen on one hand and with lead, gold and iron on the other. Organic arsenic is generally fewer toxins than inorganic arsenic. Arsenic in element from is insoluble in water. It is soluble in oxidize from.
Ecology and ecosystem: Ecology is essentially the study of how the energy in sunlight is captured and stored by plants in different natural environment and how various “communities” of plants and animals make use of that energy, aided and abetted by one another and by inorganic factors such as soils, rainfall and other environmental conditions, system by which communities of organizes capture, exchange and use energy are known as ecosystems.
(Harris Marvin, “Cultural Anthropology; p: 38)

Human ecology: It is the part of ecology. It stresses human interaction and relation with environment. The study of ecosystems that concentrates on the ecological relationship among human beings and their cultures and the rest of the organic and inorganic environment is known as human ecology or cultural ecology (Harris Marvin, 19   Cultural Anthropology, P: 36)
Event ecology: event is an incident, that is, things that happened. Briefly, we can understand that event ecology is a causal explanation of environment depends on an incident.
Melanosis: Change of complexions towards blackishness/duskiness. The limbs are first affected, then the rest of the body that shows gradual complexion change, which is ‘diffuse melanosis’. When black white spots mark the body, it is known as ‘spotted melanosis’.
Keratosis: The palms of the hands and foot-soles become hardened by onslaught of Keratosis. It is not painful or ichy in the beginning, but in later stage, may start rotting and develop gangrenous ulcers. This is called pre-cancerous stage, which may cause skin cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. The hardening of the palms and foot-soles is called diffuse Keratosis. Warlike seeds are seen growing on this keratosis of palms and soles. Such tumors may also occur otherwise, which is known as spotted kurtosis.
Following Social Anthropological method, the research was primarily conducted using a methodology termed, “participant observation” which is the unique feature of the discipline, which involves spending time with the selected population, getting to know and finds data through discussion, conservation and looking their life style. Basically, it is the detail observation and direct method for finding data. 

Again to find the proper situation of this field, the researcher collected the primary sources of data; sampling method, key informant technique, detailed observation and rapport building, unstructured interview, case study, deep observation and other different kinds of data collection such as field jolting, note book, dairy. In this study the researcher strictly tried to emphasize on emic and etic approaches. The data, which was primarily collected from emic point of view, was for getting actual information of this selected area. Again to analyze the data and to prove their knowledge in a scientific background, etic approach was applied. For this, different secondary sources were studied for getting knowledge about arsenic contamination in ground water and what is the present condition of our country. By this way, the researcher understood the history of arsenic contamination in our country and how ecology was affected.

  From collecting data, then those were analyzed by different methods. Analyzing interviews, observation and analyzing and constructing the case study, those were presented in this research paper.

Sampling method
In the selected study area, there is about 1650 population. Among population, it is difficult to collect data from door to door. Twenty-five persons (25) were selected through the method of random sampling. Information and data were collected from them. There was taken one person from each household. Because, if any of the household know about arsenic contamination, then other will also understand about it. Sample distributions are given below on the basis of arsenic contamination in tube well of each household.

Arsenic contamination in the household’s tube well water    Frequency     Percentage       
Affected household’s tube well    17    68%      
Non-affected household’s tube well    8    15.38%   
   Table: distribution of sample upon Arsenic contamination in tube well. 

Sources of Data Collection

    In any research work, collection of data is of vital importance. In this research data were collected from different sources. But all the sources are grouped into two:

Primary sources and
Secondary sources


    Data collected directly from village people and the field observations were primary sources. The data collected from Pillakhandi village through interview, questionnaire, personal census and observations, case study, life history and oral history were under this category. Information or data were collected from the respondents directly considering individuals and households as units.


    Different newspapers, periodicals, research works, scientific and social research journals (world Arsenic news letter, Asia Arsenic Network etc.) were taken as secondary sources of information to know the State-of-the-Art. These were considered as indirect or secondary sources in the present research work. Some pieces of information were used in determining the nature of the social problem of the current research.

Methods and Techniques of Data Collection from the Primary Sources

    Different methods and strategies were applied in gathering data keeping in mind the objectives of the work and condition of the field. Situation depended techniques were applied for collection of substantial and reliable data. Attempts were made to achieve the objectives sometimes by making with the respondents’ intimacy, sometimes by friendliness with the youths in their rendezvous and sometimes by keen observations and realization.
    Now the researcher explain in details the methods applied in the study field for collection of data according to the magnitude they were used. Because, the reader have a right to know how the researcher collect data from primary sources. Without knowing the details of the sources of data and the path the researcher followed, a reader faces difficulty in evaluating the work concretely.

    The entire fieldwork has been divided in three phases according to the intensity of the work. The first phase involved general idea about the study area, its production processes, its economic condition, its social, cultural and environmental condition that means in a word, an over all picture was conceived. In the second phase attempts were made to reflect upon the data so collected and experience thus gained. Here attempts were made to select resourceful respondents from whom information might be extracted through dialogue with keen observation. The third and last phase involved the penetration through the depth of the problem by intense participation on identified topics for extraction of facts through dialogue, studying events, history, etc. and the impacts influencing the life were identified here. During this phase stay in the study area was needed. Participation at this stage was the most. All those are described following in the paper.


Detailed Observation and Rapport Building

    Attempts were made to build up rapport with the people of the village. At this stage utmost endeavor was exerted to become intimate with rural people through gossiping, nodding, exchanging greetings, general discussions etc. At the same time wide observation was made. Attempt was made to gain an overall idea about the area on its production processes, economic condition, social, cultural and environmental condition.

Key Informant Technique

    As a main strategy for collection of data the key informant technique was taken due to following reasons:

As an aid to be familiarized with people and the environment and also as a strategy for deep observation.
To understand local linguistic accent, culture, relationships through Emic perspective.
To be acquainted rapidly with the study area.
To acquire in-depth information within relatively shorter time.
To avoid employment of long time in collecting data, especially during unstructured interview.
To encourage people to supply with concrete information for the sake of the study.

    Three Key informants were selected in the study. In doing so the following criteria were considered:

People of the area who had good idea about the villagers and was known as neutral.
The people who had acceptable educational standard and had the ability to understand others correctly and to express it.
The people who were acceptable in the area as philanthropic.
The people who were residing in the area for a long time.
The people who were appeared to have keen observation and interpretation capacity.

Unstructured Interview

    The first stage as mentioned was rapport building. This unstructured interview as was used as a great aid in the second stage. Informal sittings with the informants helped in establishing a kind of intimacy in turn helped to come to the discussion on arsenic. In this case the subject matter of discussion was to be memorized and as soon as possible was noted down on arriving residence. In some cases the data so collected were abandoned. In some cases twice or thrice unstructured interview with single person was arranged to achieve reliable information. Maximum data were collected through this method for the whole study.
Case Study

Case study was adopted as an aid to reflect the nature of the problem in a very nutshell. This was adopted as an aid to the in-depth finding of the study. This was one of strategies for scaling down the study as brief as possible. Because through this the brief scales of the study were enlarged, it was necessary for the study. Several case studies have been taken in this research.

Deep Observation

    At the third stage deep observation was adopted. Here the magnitude was intensified. Inaccessible and secret matters were tried to observe. The underlying reasons were tried to unveil to display the anatomy of the problem.

PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION: The detail observation of Fieldwork Method

    The main precondition of using the above-mentioned different methods, techniques and strategies was the Participant Observation, which is the unique feature of the Anthropological study. This was the main thing from which other methods emerged. In order to create a suitable environment, the Participant Observation was used as favorable strategy. In all stages of research this was applied.

In case of ethnographic approach observation was widely used. To understand the real situation of any kind of observation, this method must be used. The famous anthropologist, B. Malinowski stated that participant observation is the central to effective fieldwork (source: research methodology, written by Pelto, page: 91). Residence in the research community, he also suggested that the fieldworker observes details of daily life and activities enacted by people. The relatively unsystematized scanning of information through participant observation is basic to all the other, more refined, research technique.  

Other Methods On Data Gathering

1. Field Jolting:

    A ‘Jot Book’ was kept all the time and used to write when something had found to be investigated. It was also used to take quick notes during casual conversation. Such a notebook is required by a researcher to keep constant account in the field.

2. The Log:
    The log was kept for running account of time and money planning of the study. It was also a small notebook, which actually kept the amount and purpose of money spent and how the time was being used.

3. Field Notes
    It was to record the result of an intensive and productive personal interview with an informant. A large white pad was used to record the informal unstructured and open-ended interviews.

4. The Diary
    A diary for personal account was kept during the field stay. The day-to-day experiences and observational notes were presented in that diary. This diary chronicled how the researchers felt and perceived his relations with the people in the field.

Unit of Research and Data Analysis

    The unit of data collection in the study field was fundamentally the household. But in some cases an individual was also taken as the unit while analyzing the data. The study units were individual, household and region. These three units were used because of their relevance/perspective. In the case of differences between two persons, analytical unit was individual. In the case of differences between two households, analytical unit was a single household.

Methods of Data Analysis

    Previously we noticed that two types of data were collected. Most of the data in this research was qualitative, that is, phenomena relating to or involving quality or kind. The study focuses on social and ecological impact of arsenic problem and for this reason qualitative data was gathered much more than the quantitative data. A few quantitative data were collected for calculating incidence and prevalence rate.
    The purpose of qualitative inquiry was to produce findings. The process of data collection is not an end in itself. The culminating activities of qualitative inquiry are analysis, interpretation and presentation of findings.

    The challenging task of the researcher thus is to extract the sense from the massive data reducing them to sizable forms, identifying their significance and constructing a framework for communicating the essence of the messages they contain.

    We have a few agreed methods for qualitative data analysis. These are applied in drawing conclusions and verifying the sturdiness of the problem. But no formula can determine the significance and no method can replicate the researcher’s analytical thinking process. These are some of the problems.

    It does not mean that no guideline was followed in analyzing the collected data. Definitely guidelines and procedural suggestions are not rules. This may be discussed here.

Analysis of interviews

    In case of open-ended interviews, cross case study or cross interview analysis for each question was done. Answers from different people were grouped together.
    Variations in individual characteristics were the primary focus of the study and hence individual case study was done first. At first case analysis by using data. So collected was done. Then showing variations in answers to common questions to represent individual traits did cross-case analysis.

Analysis and construction of case studies

    For analyzing case data and constructing case studies the following three steps were followed:
Step 1

Assembling The Raw Data: These data consisted of all the pieces information collected about the person or issue for which a case study was written.

Step 2

Constructing a Case Record: This was a condensation of the raw data organizing, classifying and editing the raw data into a manageable and accessible package.

Step 3

Writing A Narrative Case Study: The case study was presented thematically.

A few quantitative data were analyzed through score sheet; dummy table and compilation of them were done carefully.

Data representation

Mode of presentation of primary and secondary data was considered to be a very important aspect of the research report. Because the report is intended for those who want to gain more insight    into any man made problem like arsenic contamination in ground water in a particular area.

Since the strategy of data presentation, which was an inevitable part, was considered to be explicit. In order to achieve the objective few tables included illustrating quantitative information of the study. The descriptive information was given under different headings.

Some case studies were included but in the form of example. These examples are considered as the supporting documents of the given analysis. These examples are brief and precise, which are relevant to description.
In the research paper, chapter two was written from the secondary sources. Different sources such as articles, books, journals and web pages; those were used for collecting data.
In chapter three and four, there were described the selected area, where quantitative and qualitative data were presented. In those chapters, data was presented as tables and case studies. While the following chapter five, was described by qualitative data. People perception, values and social structure were analyzed there.
Chapter six explained from secondary source. Here different kinds of remedial process were illustrated. And last chapter sum up by concluding remarks and mention few recommendations.

Time Allocation for the Research


3 July 2004
Stayed and observed the study field. Contacted with some G.O. and N.G. From them, the researcher got little information. After that, the researcher searched a key informant who can serve basic information about the selected area. For that search, the researcher found one of the informant, name, A. Hadi who was the proprietor of the “Nuha Telecom”. He gave more information about the study area. Rapport buildup was started.

14 August 2004
Stayed at the selected rural area. Communicated with the people for detail observation. Other two key informants had found. They helped to gather data from the field. 


               In the every research work, the researcher has several research experiences. Those may be influencing, stimulating, agitating, surprising or tragic. In this research, the researcher has also found that kind of experience. Those are discussed here.

As an N.G.O and public health worker

             The villagers thought that the researcher is an n.g.o. or public health worker. Besides, the researcher carried a bag, look like them. Because, there were few n.g.o, they often come to village and carry a bag. They are also talking like the researcher. When the researcher talked about the water, they thought that he might be government official. They were also coming for investigating tube well water few years ago. But later they did not extend their work. So, the villagers complained the researcher why he has come to village so late, why he cannot reduce the arsenic contamination etc. Later, they understood the researcher was a student. However, they also continued their complains. Many also complaint that their sanitation system was very bad; the researcher might inform the government office to develop that condition.

(2) The Researcher, a Water Tester

    The Public Health Engineering Department examined water of different tube-wells and due to the presence of arsenic at dangerous level; the DPHE people sealed some tube-wells. The researcher entered the village as stranger. People asked the following questions:

Why do you visit the village?
How long can you stay?
Where do you come from?
Where do you stay?

    Inspite of answering to all the questions properly still they thought that the researcher could examine water. Even many brought water to test by the researcher. On expressing his inability the village people uttered their disappointment and went away. Many remarked the researcher about as ‘false’ person in his absence, the researcher heard. This was insulting and an impediment as well against rapport building.

(3) Not telling about arsenic patient

The villagers did not tell about any arsenic patient. They told that there were no arsenic patients. Although they were drinking the contaminated water, they were always concealing their affection. Thus, it was hard to find arsenicosis patients. Moreover, they were not known about the arsenicosis diseases. They did not take it seriously. One of the woman said that her husband has been drinking the water from the tube well which was marked by public health workers.

(4) Rapport-Building as an outsider
       At the first visit, the researcher found a person whose brother was the familiar to researcher his name was A. Hadi. The researcher familiarized with him when he told about that one of his brothers has finished study from the same university who was known to the researcher. After known that, he helped the researcher very cordially. He was also a well known in this village. So, it was helpful for researcher to create rapport building.

(5) Information Delivery Mode of Women

    Women folk could behave with much restraint and answered to any question in brief. On the other hand in absence of their male partners they were very free and frank. In some cases some ladies answered jointly. At times they appeared with their children. When her husband was at home, no lady replied to any question. Her husband made reply. So in presence of male persons females were not found to be in free mood.

(6) Experience of Staying In the Village
               There were many differences staying in village compare with town. In this village, people were living in a very simple. They were not luxurious to find anything. Their demand was very simple. Men were working from morning to evening outside the house. On the other hand, women were working all day and night at home such as cooking, child caring etc. The life was very steady there. Hardly, they come to a town to buy something or meet with relatives, if they have. Generally, men are coming to town, if they need anything.

(7) Experience Regarding Oral History

    It is helpful for a researcher to collect oral history if he is conversant with an important event of the village or of the nation beforehand. Because of rural people cannot mention any year. Practice of locating any event is to associate it with some historical event, natural calamity etc. As for example, if someone is asked about the date of birth of a boy they mention this as “year of flood”. This means 10 or 15 years before there was a flood in that area and the boy was born in that year. That’s why in collecting the oral history; one should be acquainted with important local or national event.

(8) A Tragic Experience

The research work has done in the village, which name was Pillakhandi at Zakiganj Upazila, in Sylhet. The village situation was very worse than town. The socio-economic condition was very lower in the village. The health conditions of the village people were poor. The children were suffered by malnutrition. Their appearance showed that condition. On the other hand, water management facility was not existed. Therefore, they either drink contaminated tube well water or polluted surface water such as pond or river’s water. But all those are highly polluted. Those entire situations hurt the researcher. Again, they use hanging latrine, which was not health caring. One of the villagers complained about that.
Besides, its infrastructural facility was rare. The road on which people are transported was bad in condition. That also suffered the researcher.       


Making any research paper, the researcher may face different kinds of problems. From beginning to end, those often put backward to research work. In this research, the researcher also has overcome different kinds of problem from first to last. Those can be categorized into three types. Those are as follows:
First step – pre-research problems
Second step – problems in fieldwork
Third step – post-research problems

In the first step, conducting a research, researcher found few problems in planning that is, how can make a research appropriate for reader. Besides, in this step, researcher fell in a deep crisis for collecting materials and references about selected topic. Because, the book collection of university’ library was not sufficient for any research. Even there have no adequate library in Sylhet. But for literature review, there was needed many identified books. On the other hand, research expenses are needed for conducting any research. But it was not distributed in this research. Thus, it created a few problems to collect research materials and to go to selected study area.

In the second step, the research fell in a hazardous situation to go to the field. Because, the field was located in 85 k.m distant from Sylhet town. Besides, the road of the field was not better to go. There were many broken on the pitch. Thus it was difficult to go to field. Whatever at last the fieldwork has been finished. After go to the field, there was created another situation. The people of the area thought that the researcher was coming from development agency or government employee. So, they complained the researcher that why he came here so late, why government cannot solve their problems etc. This created few problems to gather data.

Lastly, the researcher felt frighten to analyze and represent the data because of the first research work for him. Because, any research need different method, technique and scientific analysis. In this sense, experience can help any research work. But in this research, the researcher has no experience for doing any research work before.

In spite of these limitations, the research is possible and adequately done with extreme co-operation of teachers.



2.1 Biomedical perspective
2.2 Arsenic speciation in the environment
2.3 The natural and anthropogenic sources of arsenic
2.4 Arsenic contamination in Asia
2.5 Arsenic contamination in west Bengal, India
2.6 Sources of arsenic in west Bengal and Bangladesh
2.7 Arsenic contamination in Bangladesh

Background of Arsenic Contamination
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element. Pure arsenic is a gray metal-like material, which is usually found in the environment combined with other elements such as oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur. Arsenic combined with these elements is called inorganic arsenic. Arsenic combined with carbon and hydrogen is called organic arsenic. Organic forms are usually less harmful than the inorganic forms. Most inorganic and organic arsenic compounds are white or colorless powders that do not evaporate. They have no smell, and most have no special taste. Thus, one usually cannot be assured if arsenic is present in ones food, water, or air.

2.1 Biomedical perspective

Exposure Pathways

Because arsenic is a natural element of the environment, low levels of arsenic are present in soil, water, food, and air. Soil usually contains the most, with average levels of about 5 parts of arsenic per million parts of soil (ppm). Levels in food are usually about 0.020-0.140 ppm and levels in water are about 0.002 ppm. Thus, one normally takes in small amounts of arsenic and of these, food is usually the largest source. One is also likely to swallow small amounts of dust or dirt each day. So this is another way one can be exposed to arsenic. The total amount one takes in from these sources is probably about 50 micrograms each day.
In addition to the normal levels of arsenic in air, water, soil, and food, one could be exposed to higher levels in some areas of the country that contain unusually high natural levels of arsenic in soil or water. If one lives in an area like that, one could take in above-average amounts of arsenic from the soil or from the water. If one saws arsenic-treated wood, one could inhale some of the sawdust through the nose or throat. Similarly, if one burns arsenic-treated wood, one could inhale arsenic in the smoke.

Health Implications

    If one swallows arsenic in water, soil, or food, most of the arsenic quickly enters into the body.  If one gets arsenic-contaminated soil or water on the skin, only a small amount will go through the skin into the body, so this is usually not of concern. If one is exposed to arsenic, the liver changes some of this to a less harmful organic form. Both inorganic and organic forms leave the body in the urine. Most of the arsenic will be gone within several days, although some will remain in the body for several months or even longer.
    Inorganic arsenic has been recognized as a human poison since ancient times, and large oral doses (in concentrations of above 60 ppm in food or water) can produce death. If one swallows lower levels of inorganic arsenic (concentrations ranging from about 0.3 to 30 ppm in food and water), one may experience irritation of the stomach and intestines, with symptoms such as pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Other effects one might experience from swallowing arsenic include decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, blood vessel damage, and impaired nerve function causing a “pins and needles” sensation in the hands and feet.
    Perhaps the single most characteristic effect of long-term oral exposure to inorganic arsenic is a pattern of skin changes. This includes a darkening of the skin and the appearance of small corns or warts on the palms, soles, and torso. While these skin changes are not considered to be a health concern in their own right, a small number of the corns may ultimately develop into skin cancer. Swallowing arsenic has also been reported to increase the risk of cancer in the liver, bladder, kidney, and lung.

Acceptable Limits in Drinking Water

Considering Arsenic as a category -1 drinking water contaminant, the maximum contaminant level (MCL) or in other words maximum allowable concentration (MAC) would usually be proposed at the practical quantization level (PQL). Here, PQL will be identified as the lowest level that can be reliably achieved within specified limits of precision and accuracy during routine laboratory operating conditions. In recent years, the American Chemical Society (ACS) has proposed to re-define PQL, which replaces this term with RQL: (reliable quantization level). This RQL is defined as four times the interlaboratory MDL (Method detection level). On the basis of currently available technology, the interlaboratory MDL for arsenic by either graphite furnace AAS methods or by hydride generation AAS is reported to be 0.004
    The basic concept is that laboratories with competent technicians using current approved atomic absorption analytical methodology in conformity with Standard Methods for the examination of water and waste water can quantify arsenic in drinking water as low as .004 mg/l within currently accepted limits of precision and accuracy.
    According to pharmaco-kinetic data and dosage-effect relations, the Federal Public Health Office of Germany proposed a concentration of arsenic in drinking water not beyond 0.02 mg/l in consideration to intake of inorganic arsenic through foodstuff. The wastewater technology edited by Institute Fresenius GmbH has such indication. However from 01.01.96 the new MAC is 0.01 mg/l.

So far known, the MCL of inorganic arsenic in drinking water in few countries of the Globe are as below.
Table: 2- Inorganic Arsenic in Drinking Water

COUNTRY     MCL/MAC (mg/l)    REMARK      
USA    00.05    Established in 1975 A new Standard in the range of 2-20 µg/l under consideration.      
USEPA    0.01    Provisionally suggested in 1994. The agency is under a court order to promulgate final rule by November 1997.      
Great Britain    0.05          
Canada    0.05          
Japan    0.05          
Russia    0.05          
EEC    0.05    Establish in 1987      
India    0.05    Bureau of Indian Standards Code IS 10500: 1991. The Manual on water supply & treatment published by Ministry of Urban Areas & Employment, Govt. of India in March 1991.   
Source: WHO, 1997
The WHO provisional guideline value published in April 1993 allows MCL of arsenic as 0.01 mg/l As reported in the unedited draft manuscript of WHO the provisional guideline value (PGV) is based inter alia on one or more of the following considerations.

a) Evidence of potential health hazard, but limited available information on health effects.
b) Uncertainty factor greater than 1000 used in deriving tolerable daily intake (TDI).
c) Calculated guideline value could be below the PQL or below the level that can be achieved through practical treatment methods.
d) Arsenic being carcinogenic, the guideline value is the concentration in drinking water associated with an excess lifetime cancer risk of one additional cancer per 100,000 of the population ingesting drinking water containing the substance at the guideline value for 70 years.
    Intake of arsenic mostly in organic form is a regular feature in food chain. Communities consuming lesser amount of tin food, sea-fish. Alcohol etc. may continue with less stringent standard till further improvement in environmental & socio-economic conditions.

2.2 Arsenic Speciation in The Environment

Arsenic in Marine Environment

Mollusks fish and other animals
    Research results show that the concentration of arsenic species in marine and fresh water animals in considerably above the background Concentrations in the surrounding water. Typical values for arsenic in Seawater are higher than fresh water, a much wider Variation can be considered, commonly in the range 0.4 to 80 PPb. Sometimes it can have concentration as high as 2500 PPb. as in Taiwan. The water in these wells is mainly responsible for skin cancer and Black Foot Diseases (BFD). Arsenic concentration in Salmon is 0.31 PPM, which is as high as 340 PPM in the gland of the carnivorous gastropod. Arsenic concentrations in Crustacean are generally believed to be higher than in fish. But the plaice of North Sea Showed Concentrations in the range       3-166 PPM with 65% of the 225 different samples above 10 PPM. The world’s record for arsenic accumulation is probably held by the prychaete worm thorax marine”. The whole body concentration usually exceeds 2000-PPM dry weight. Much of this arsenic is concentrated in the palps, which comprise 4% of the body weight, being in the range 6000-13000 PPM.
    The carnivorous gastropods can have very high concentration of arsenobetaine and the compound is an end point of the arsenic cycle in the marine ecosystem. Again arsenobetaine is present in clam, Scallops. Algae contain arsenic containing sugar derivatives. Cooked shrimp releases more arsenic than does uncooked shrimp. Inorganic arsenic appears to be present in the gut of fishes like catfish as a consequence of its feeding habits.
    Generally the concentration of organo - arsenicals in freshwater fish is lower than found in the marine environment e.g. bass (0.12.PPM) and yellow perch (0.053 PPM). Even so the arsenic concentrations are higher than found in the surrounding medium; the organo - arsenicals do not seem to be the same as found in the marine environment.

Marine plants and algae
    The arsenic content of the brown kelp Ecklobia radiata is 10 PPM higher concentrations have been reported for marine algae e.g. 95-109 PPM in laminaria digitata (a kind of seaweed) and other edible seaweed, Hizikia fasifarme (Japanese) belongs to the order.
    Fucales have recently been found to contain essentially half its arsenic burden as sugar derivatives and half as arsenate. Another study showed that green algae (platymonas of suecica) were found to contain arsenate.

Arsenic Compounds in the Terrestrial Environment.

 Fresh water algae 

    Many scientists examined algae collected from contaminated with arsenic and the alga chlorella vulgaris was found to survive in a medium containing 10,000 PPM arsenic and its growth was found to increase in arsenic concentration up to 2,000 PPM and its bioaccumulation of arsenic also increases. The chlorella (alga) can reduce arsenate to arsenite; the energy necessary is obtained from photosynthesis. Another alga (chara fragilis) seems to cope with toxicity of arsenic by storing it as an insoluble compound in its thallus.


    Arsenicals have wide application in agriculture, sodium arsenite as a weed killer and soil sterilant and calcium arsenate as herbicide and lead arsenate as an insecticide. Another reason for which scientist study this is the biogeochemical indicator, in particular as a pathfinder element for gold. Some species that contain high arsenic concentration also contain high gold concentrations. The doughlas fir, a kind of tree has the ability to pick up large amounts of arsenic. Ash samples of the most recent growth of trees within 200 feet of mineralization commonly contain 100 Ppm arsenic in excess. The maximum-recorded value seems to be 10,000 PPM (Dry Weight).

Human and other terrestrial animals
    Buchet ingested arsenic in humans and monitored in urine and found that sodium arsenite (maximum dose = 100mg of as per day for 5 days) is methylated to monomethyl and dimethylarsenic species when it is eliminated in the urine: no other organoarsenical seems to be produced. Worker who are exposed to airborne arsenic compound also seem to eliminate this arsenic in the urine. In high exposure groups the level of this metabolic can be 6 times that of the control.
    Fish like lobsters, prawn etc. contain arsenicals; scientists conclude that the fish arsenics are nontoxic for humans.

    Mice excrete ingested arsenite and arsenate rapidly. Arsenicals are also found in the urine of dogs, pigs, cows and monkeys. Arsenocholine has a marked lipotropic activity in rats and mice and has the effect of promoting growth in chicks and preventing perosis.
Environmental arsenic speciation

A.    Thermodynamic consideration: Geochemical modeling is a useful means of identifying the major controls on the distribution and Speciation of arsenic in the environment. This applies only to systems in equilibrium. It provides useful prediction of the occurrence, absence or fate of various dissolved and solid arsenic species under different environmental conditions. It is also possible to predict direction and not rate that the system will move if perturbed.
B.    Inorganic arsenicals-aqueous Complex: scientific investigation on the equilibrium speciation of 58 trace elements in oxygenated fresh water and seawater confirm that unlike many elements, arsenic forms few additional aqueous complexes with typical water constituents. But the range of water-soluble inorganic arsenic compounds is quite limited. Temperature effects can explain some changes of the states of arsenicals. Arsenic (III) is dominant in geothermal sources when sulfide is present but is rapidly converted to Arsenic (V) at elevated temperatures. (30°-40°C). Bacteria are capable of facile redox transformations (Arsenic) (III) Arsenic (V)). Abiological reactions are also possible and the scientists have observed photochemical oxidation of arsenite to arsenate. They observed enhanced oxidation rates with the application of sunlight.
Arsenic in the Atmosphere

Fluxes: Arsenic enters the atmosphere from natural sources that include volcanic activity, wind erosion, sea spray, forest fires and low-temperature volatilization. Smelting operations and fossil fuel combustion contribute to anthropogenic sources of arsenic. Removal processes such as dry deposition and rainfall balance these inputs.

Analytical Considerations and Speciation

         Sea spray mainly contributes arsenate. Arsenic speciation is governed by the redox changes in the atmospheric environment. Most of the arsenic present in the atmosphere is in the form of particulate matter. Methylated arsenic compound is present in the atmosphere in association with particulate matters.

2.3 The natural and Anthropogenic sources of arsenic in the environment

    Arsenic is a mobile, ubiquitous element, which continually changes form and location in the environment. The movement and the rate of change vary depending on the substrate where the arsenicals are found. The natural global production and emission of arsenic are included in the following table. The major natural source comes from volcanoes followed by terrestrial biosphere and particle weathering of the earth’s crust.

    Man, through need for various minerals, removes arsenic as a by-product or waste product from its natural source. Anthropogenic sources include such activities as producing various metals, burning fuels, unwanted vegetation and wastes controlling pests and mining of ores and minerals. All these are specified in the table below:
Table: 3- Total Content of Natural and Anthropogenic Sources of Arsenic

a) Bubble bursting
b) Gas exchange
a) Particle weathering
b) Volatilization
Total Natural Sources   



Source: WHO, 1997

2.4 Arsenic Contamination in Asia

    Arsenic, a Carcinogenic substance is a king of poison that has plagued human beings since the days of antiquity. In Asia, arsenic is both a cause of large Scale environmental Contamination and a serious health hazard. Contamination cases are to be found in the lower reaches of the Ganges river (India and Bangladesh), Taiwan and in both xinjang uyglur A.R. and inner Mongolian A.R. in China, where underground water is used both for drinking and cooking.
    The design of the present paper is planned to discuss the woes and sufferings of these Countries of Asia first and then to depict Bangladesh Situation.

Kurdistan province, Iran

Kurdistan province is in the west of Iran between 34°44' to 36º30' north, and 45º 31' to 48º 16' east and is in neighborhood to Iraq. Its area is about 1.7 percent of country and has more than 1,300,000 inhabitants. This province is a mountain region and has two different types of weather; cold weather in high altitude area and temperate weather in valleys and some of western parts.
Bijaar county, an affected region from naturally occurring arsenic, with 580-km2 area is located on the northeast of the Kurdistan province and has an average altitude of about 1750m from sea level (ngo, 2001), there are 17 deep wells, 616 dug wells, 42 springs and 9 subterranean canals in this area (KMPO, 2000). Total annual water consumption of this country for municipal, industry and agriculture uses is about 30 million m3, which is, mainly supplied from underground resources. Field studies have shown elevated levels of arsenic concentration in some rural areas of this country. The first cases of chronic arsenic poisoning due to drinking water were diagnosed in 1981. But no scientific and systematic study has been conducted in the region pertaining to prevalence or incidence of such a health consequence. Arsenic concentration of water resources of 18 villages are presented in the following table. As shown in this table, there are some villages with more than 1000µg/l arsenic in their water supplies. Mean concentration of arsenic in these villages is about 290µg/l, six times greater than national stander. Primary investigations have show that the source of arsenic is mainly geogenic due to dissolution of arsenic containing compounds in earth’s crust. Anthropogenic sources of may be important, as mining is one of the industrial activities in the area; but industrial wasterwaters or pesticides application have not been identified as source of pollution in the area.

Ronpibool, Thailand

The tragedy of a village near a tin mine in Ronpibool, Thailand occurred in 1987 and it was diagnosed that 1500 people were affected. Among those there were six people with proven skin Cancer.

    The department of Geology found the causes in the water of shallow well contaminated with arsenic being converted from arsenic Compounds to soluble arsenate. It was found on investigation that the shallow well contaminated with arsenic are the main sources of tragedy. Poisoning resulted from Chronic (exposure) to contaminated water which was drained from the tin mine presumably the processes involved in mining and extraction of tin changed the insoluble arsenic compounds to more soluble arsenate salts. At many sites, 8 to 100 times exceeded the arsenic content of water. The 0.005-ppm concentration, which is the accepted safety level, set down by WHO for occasional exposure.

Xinjiang uygur a. r. China

Chepaizi is a village in Kuitun city located at the southwestern part of the Junggarian Basin, Xinjiang Uygur A. R. The village has a population of about 2000 soldiers and farmers concurrently and they produce wheat, cotton, corn, Sunflowers and hop in the main while breeding cattle.

    Four small rivers flow in the district from the mountain part primarily it is a dry inland basin with an evaporation rate 10-14 times higher than the annual rainfall. It was barren, nomadic area before settlement, after settlement, the immigrants used river and shallow well water during the early years. With the expansion of cultivation and an increase in population many deep well (over 100m) were dug, starting from 1962 due to lack of surface water and for prevention of epidemic diseases of the digestive organs.
    The water of these wells, however, contained fluorine and arsenic (highest 0.85 ppm). Flourosis was first found in 1970s and arsenism in 1980. According to kuitun Health Anti epidemic Station, about 10,000 people have been affected by arsenic, of which about 2,000 people show some kinds of arsenic lesions.

    Kuitun patients who drank the same well water are of three types. Some suffer for flourosis; some suffer from arsenism and some from flourosis and arsenism combined.

The provinces along the south west coast of Taiwan due to excessive pollution of surface water used artesian wells (100-280m deep) since about 1900. In 1920s a number of people were found with gangrene on the extremities and disease was named Black foot Disease (BFD). Early in 1950 many BFD) cases were reported. Taiwan University College of Medicine Carried out a survey and proved that BFD was due to arsenic in artesian well water (1.86 ppm). It was found in 1982 that 20000 people were suffering from chronic arsenism.

2.5 Arsenic Contamination in West Bengal, India
         Arsenic in groundwater above the WHO maximum permissible limit of 0.05 mg l-1 has been found in six districts of West Bengal covering an area of 34 000 km2 with a population of 30 million. At present, 37 administrative blocks by the side of the River Ganga and adjoining areas are affected (Dipankar Chakraborti et al). These seven districts are South 24-Parganas, North 24-Parganas, Nadia, Hoagli, Bardhaman, Murshidabad and Malda.
     Recent survey indicates that 560 villages are arsenic affected and more than a million people are drinking arsenic contaminated water and more than 200,000 people are suffering from arsenic related diseases. About 20,000 tube well waters were analyzed for arsenic. The average concentration of arsenic in contaminated water is about 0.20 mg/l; the maximum concentration of arsenic is found to be 3.7 mg/l. Most of the tube-well water contains arsenic in the form of arsenite and arsenate. People having arsenical skin manifestations and drinking contaminated water have high arsenic in hair, nail, urine and skin scales. Many people have arsenical skin lesions as: melanosis, leucomelanosis, nonpetting, hyper-ketatosis, dorsum, nonpetting oedema, gangrene, skin Cancer. More information are coming where arsenic Patients are suffering from cancer of bladder, lung etc. The source of arsenic is geological. The reason why arsenic is leached out from the source is not yet clear but owing to heavy ground water withdrawal the geochemical reaction in under ground may be the reason. The vast surface and rainwater resource, which WEST BENGAL has, should be used properly to combat the situation. The watershed management is also an urgent action recommended by the expert in India.

Causes of Contamination

    To study various aspects of arsenic problem in West Bengal, a study was undertaken during 1988-91 by a number of organisations namely; (1) All India Institute of Hygiene and public Health. (2) Public Health Engineering Department, Govt. of West Bengal. (3) School of Tropical Medicines, Calcutta (4) Center for Study of Man and environment etc.
    The area affected by arsenic is a part of the Ganga-Bramaputra delta having Quaternary Sedimentation of Varying thickness. This so called Bengal basin could be divided into six macro form process regions as:

(1)     Laterite upland
(2)    Barind
(3)    Upper delta plain of meander belt.
(4)    Valley margin fan.
(5)    Marginal plain.
(6)    Lower delta plain and delta front
Of the regions the Upper delta plain is responsible for arsenic contamination. This plain is characterized by a series of meander belts. The reported occurrences of arsenic above permissible limit are all confined within the meander belt zone of the upper delta plain comprising of late quaternary sediments. Within this belt, the arsenic polluted ground water is mainly confined to the intermediate aquifer (20-80 mg/l).
Extent and Magnitude of the Problem

    Between 1998 and 1991 the central Govt. Organizations of India have undertaken survey and analysis of ground water to ascertain the magnitude of contamination in the affected districts of malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, North & South 24 Parganas etc.

The Scientists Reported That:
The ground water was bicarbonate type and alkaline in nature.
 High arsenic concentration in ground water was associated with high iron concentrations.
 Arsenic concentration was relatively more in clay and fine sand samples as compared to the samples of medium grain sands.
Arsenic concentration in ground water was not uniformly distributed in any part of the area and high arsenic concentration was usually found in isolated patches.

    Water quality analysis done by various agencies up to 1995 indicated that 61 blocks in different districts are affected with arsenic contamination as mentioned below:

Table: 4-Affected Districts and Blocks in W. Bengal

Districts    No of blocks affected      
Malda     5      
Murshidabad    15      
Nadia    13      
N-24 Parganas    14      
S-24 Parganas    9      
Burdwan    2      
Howarh    2      
Hooghly    1      
Total = 7    61   
          Source: Arsenic in Ground water in Bangladesh, 1997

All these studies could not reveal the exact number of tube-wells affected and the total population at risk. These studies indicated that all people were not equally affected. Indian Govt. made arrangement for comprehensive epidemiological assessment to determine exact number of people suffering from arsenical dermatosis of other symptoms of chronic arsenic poisoning.

Specific Symptoms in West Bengal

    Darkening of skin (diffused melanosis) in the body or in palm is the earliest symptoms. Spotted pigmentation is usually seen on chest back or limbs. Leucomelanosis, which is white and black spots side by side, is also seen on many patients. This is common in persons who have stopped drinking arsenic contaminated water. Diffuse with modular keratosis on palm and sole is a sign of moderately severe toxicity. Roughdry skin often with palpable nodules in dorsum of hands, feet, and legs are the symptoms seen in severe cases. Other symptoms sometimes found are (1) Conjuctival congestion (2) nonpetting swelling of feet.
    Specialists, in fine, remarked that this arsenic calamity of west Bengal, which is the biggest in the world, should not be neglected any more. The world should learn a lesson from this arsenic problem of West Bengal that any country where water extraction from underground goes similarly unchecked could be learning them open to similar calamity.

Combating the Situation
To combat the arsenic problem in ground water in West Bengal different activities by different organisations have been undertaken as mentioned below:

A sub-mission project on Arsenic Pollution in ground water in West Bengal under the protection of different organisations like National Drinking Water Mission, Ministry of Rural Development, Govt. of India in May, 1988, All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, School of Tropical Medicine, Centre for studies on Man and Environment, State Water Investigation Directorate, Central Ground Water Board and Public Health Engineering Directorate (GOWB).

A committee was set up in 1992 to investigate ground water for elimination of arsenic contamination. The committee submitted the report in October 1994.

The task force constituted by the Govt. of West Bengal in 1995 has been empowered to take decision of appropriate remedial measures for presentation of Arsenic contamination in drinking water.

Work relating to piped water supply scheme has been started in Malda with the assistance from Govt. of India; to supply safe surface water (after treatment) to the Arsenic affected villages.

Supplying treated surface water to Arsenic affected areas of South and PHE directorate has planned North 24-Parganas.

Programme for installation of deep aquifer tube-wells and works are in progress in the Arsenic affected areas to draw safe water and supply to the consumers has been undertaken.

A comprehensive programme on water quality monitoring in the six Arsenic affected districts of West Bengal has been undertaken jointly by PHE department and All India Institute of hygiene.

An Environmental Epidemiological study of Arsenic contamination of ground water in six districts of West Bengal has been started by All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health.
Domestic filters for removal of Arsenic from drinking water have been developed by All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health and Jadavpur University.

Hand Pump attached type model of Arsenic Removal Plant has been installed at Ashokenagar, North 24 -Parganas by the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health.

2.6 Sources of Arsenic in West Bengal And Bangladesh

The River Regime of the Ganga and Its Sedimentation History
    The Ganga delta between its Bhagirathi-Hugli, Padma-Ganga and the sea is referred to Gangetic Alluvium Plain. To understand the hydrogeological characteristics of this Alluvium Plain it is imperative to know the role of the rivers in shaping and forming the hydrogeology. The silt, borne by the rivers, which owing to their passage through a comparatively level tract of the country have turned from an excavating into a depositing agent, was accumulated partly on the sides, thus gradually embanking the river and partly on its bed, until the banks have been raised above the inundation level. All rivers oscillate in curves, whose extent is directly proportional to the quality of water flowing through the rivers. If another invades one such river, the curve extends to tackle with the combined mass of water and the regime of the river tries to be straight. In the process, the old curves are abandoned and the river flows almost straight after cutting a new channel.

Changes in the Flow of the River Ganga
    1. The Ganga entered into the new alluvial formation of Bengal near Rajmahal, flow along its present course up to Krishnanagar-Sapatagram (near Bandel) zone and bifurcated into two-one channel flew straight down to sea through Adiganga and the main spill channel flew by Tamaralipta till 5th century.

    2. The old western spill was abandoned due to fall in secular elevation and consequent siltation. The river on the east became the main eastern channel up to about twelfth century. It threw of various sub-branches as Ichamati, Kobadak etc.

    3. Between 15th and 16th century the river Kosi abandoned its easterly course and flew directly into the Ganga. The Ganga abandoned its old course and started flowing eastward along a new vast channel known a Padma. The river Saraswati declined and got steadily silted up.
    4. In April 1762 a great earthquake occurred in Chittagang causing submergence of vast areas and consequent elevation of certain areas. The river Brahmaputra changed its course westwards and met Padma further upwards. Due to damming action of the Brahmaputra river, Padma curved three channels -- the first one was Garai which flew eastward bearing main load, Jalangi carrying a considerable part of water met Bhagirathi near Krishnanagar and a new river Mathabangha - Churni was born and the river Ichamati got rejuvenated. Enriched by the combined flow of Jalangi and Churni the river Bhagirathi got a new lease of life by the end of 18 the century.

    5. In the course of time, covering the last 150 years, all the old rivers in the Gangetic Plain died - the rivers Jalangi, Churni, Mathabanga, Ichamati got silted up and remained in moribund state as small rivulets with many meanders. Adi (old)Ganga died a natural death.

    If the entire Ganga delta is considered, three such divisions of moribund, matured and active delta can be identified both in West Bengal and Bangladesh.

Geomorphological Set Up

The Ganga delta and the flanking areas forming the Bengal basin can be divided into six macro form - process regions - Laterite Upland, Barind, Upper delta plain of meander belt, Valley margin fan, marginal plain, lower delta plain and delta front. The higher incidence arsenic in ground water is restricted within the upper delta plain with a series of meander belts. Conspicuous levees along the Bhagirathi and other rivers well as backswamp lakes in between inter-distributary’s levees are other geomorphic forms, which could easily be related to fluvial processes of distributaries in the upper delta plain.

Arsenic in Soil Environment
            The levels of arsenic in the soils of various countries have been said to range from 1 to 50 ppm with a mean of 5 ppm. Arsenic occurs mainly as inorganic species and may be converted to organo arsenic compounds by soil microorganisms; Minerals of arsenic include sulphides, Arsenites, Arsenates.

    Arsenic occurs in the pentavalent state as arsenic acid and in the trivalent state as arsenite in soil solution and both oxidation states can be subjected to chemically and microbiologically mediate oxidation, reduction and methylation reactions.

    Arsenite As (III), the reduced state of inorganic arsenic is a toxic pollutant and it is more soluble and mobile than the oxidized state of inorganic arsenic, arsenate [As (V)]. Arsenate can be absorbed onto clays, kaolinite and montmorillonite at low pH (5.0). Adsorption of As (V) by calcite increased from pH 6 to 10. Organic arsenic, dimethyl arsenic acid (Caco dylic acid) is a volatile arsenic compound and may be present in all soils.

    Solubility and speciation of arsenic in soils is controlled mainly by redox potential and pH. Under oxidizing conditions arsenic solubility (200-500 mv) is low and most (65-98%) is As (V). At high pH or under reducing conditions As (V) becomes reduced to As (III) and toxic arsenic is solubilized. Under moderately reducing conditions (0-100 mv) arsenic solubility is controlled by from oxyhydroxides present where Arsenate As (V) is co-precipitated with from compounds and released upon solubilization.

    In short, trivalent and pentavalent arsenic form rather insoluble complexes in sediment systems by interaction with hydrous oxides containing clay particles. Adsorption, desorption, redox potential, and biological transformation reactions influence arsenic mobility during water sediment interactions. The adsorption of arsenic is related to pH, texture and the clay and sand content of sediments. Arsenic is deposited on sediments mainly as manganese and iron oxyhydroxides while the arsenate - arsenite profile with depth in pore waters is governed by the redox gradient and by the presence of sulphide. The redox transition zone is defined by bacterial degradation of organic matter and depends on the organic carbon content, the rate of sedimentation and the diffusion of oxygen from overlying water. Methylation, demethylation and reduction reactions are important in controlling the mobilization and subsequent distribution of arsenicals. Organic matter occurring naturally in aquatic system can interact with arsenic. Such arsenic - humic acid interactions at certain pH values may be as important as adsorption to hydroxides.

Hydrogeological Conditions
    In Bangladesh, younger, alluvium, older alluviums deposited during Quaternary period including those in the coastal area provide prolific aquifers of appreciable thickness for large-scale ground water development. Existing tube-wells throughout the country except in Dhaka and some parts of the coastal area have been constructed within 150 m. Depth. Three lithological units namely an upper clay and silt, silty to fine sand and medum sand to coarse sand and gravel comprise the sediments and ground water occurs either under water table or semi-confining conditions.

    Both in Bangladesh and in the eastern part of Bhagirathi-Hugli River in West Bengal, the depth to water level varies from 5 to 15 m in dry season of April-may and may be as high as 2 to 5 m in post-monsoon period during August-November months. The fluctuation of water level between premonsoon and post-monsoon period can be 3 to 6 m. The hydraulic gradient generally is from northwest to southeast and west to east. The transmissivity of the aquifer ranges between 1000 to 6000 m2/day averaging 2000 m2/day. The storage coefficient of the aquifer generally is within 0.1 to 10 percent. Ground water recharge occurs primarily through direct infiltration of rainfall, flood water; return seepage from canals and other irrigational reservoirs and well fields.

    In Bangladesh the ground water resource available after application of planning constraints over a gross utilizable land area of 75,860 km2 was 25,750 Mm3 (Md. Wuamruzzaman Khan, 1985) against which ground water withdrawal was estimated for agricultural use was 5,227 Mm3/year and for drinking and industrial water supplies about 899 Mm3. There were over 4,61,000 irrigation tube-wells installed by June 1985. Considering the growth rate of 2 to 2.5% per year, the ground water utilization by now might have been enhanced to 25 to 30% of the 1985 figure.

Probable Causes of High Arsenic Incidence in Ground Water
    From the studies of the various research workers belonging to different scientific institutions, the following salient points emerge:

1)    Ground water occurring mainly within shallow zones (20-60 m b.g.1.) are characterized by high Iron, Arsenic (>0.5 to 1 or above mg/liter), Calcium, Magnesium and Bi-carbonate with low Chloride, Sulphate, pH being above 7.

2)    Aquifers containing high arsenic are confined to meander belt zone of the upper Delta Plain.

3)    Sand grains in the aquifer found to be coated with iron and arsenic-rich material.

4)    Clay, Silty clay partings between the aquifers contain relatively higher arsenic compared to sand-gravel sequence of the aquifer.

5)    Arsenic rich - Pyrite detected from bore hole sample of a few locations has been considered as a major source material on the assumption that large scale ground water withdrawal helps change in the geochemical environment which in turn decomposes pyrite to ferrous sulphate, ferric sulphate and sulphuric acid.

6)    The source of elevated arsenic concentration in ground water is in the sediments itself - the principal source being clay, peat etc., having iron and arsenic sulphides deposited in a reducing environment.

7)    Upper Sandy Clay being tapped by dug wells show arsenic below detection limit.

8)    Pond, tank or river water in these areas has not been found to contain arsenic within detection limit.

    Some of the research workers believe that leaching of arsenic in ground water seems to have been influenced by a number of interacting factors like ground water withdrawal for irrigation, percolation of oxygenated water through soil, properties of iron oxide present in the soil, application of fertilizer containing phosphate and microbial reactions within the soil. Large scale ground water withdrawal in the dry period causes aeration of aquifer, disturbs the state of oxygenation of ground water at different depths and may be responsible in bringing the arsenic bearing mineral phases into solution (soluble in the prevailing mildly alkaline pH 7.2-8.5) in ground water.

    Regarding non-availability of arsenic in surface water under oxidizing conditions some believe that freshly prepared amorphous arsenic reacting with ferric oxyhydroxide might be precipitated in the bottom soil. Again, if pyrites are oxidized, water should be rich in sulphate ions and acidic in nature. However, ground water in general is alkaline here.

2.7 Arsenic contamination in Bangladesh

    School of environmental studies (SOES), Jadavpur University, Calcutta, first reported in 1992 the cases of arsenic victims in Bangladesh when they were carrying out survey in Gobindapur Village of North 24 Parganas District of West Bengal. Immediately after that, the school of professional Medicine, Calcutta reported inflow of arsenic patients from Bangladesh in 1994. SOES authority informed concerned agencies of Bangladesh Government. In 1995, SOES organized the “International Conference on Arsenic in Ground water, cause, Affect and Remedy” which was attended by representatives from Bangladesh. After that many reports on arsenic and cases of patients followed, warning of the seriousness of problem.

State Of Arsenic Contamination
            In Bangladesh, the statistics of arsenic contamination are shown as follows:
         Surveyed number of Districts: 64
         Total number of Districts above maximum level:
                 Area affected in 59 districts: 126134 kms
         Population at risk: 75 millions
         Potential exposed population: 24 millions

    Total Number of Thanas affected: 48
    Total Number of Villages affected: 80
    Total Number patients: 15000
    Number of chronic patients: 90
    Total Number of water samples examined: 1594
    Total Number of Tube-wells contaminated: 553
    Number of tube-wells giving above 0.05 mgm/l: 305
    Number of tube-wells giving above 0.01 mgm/l and below .05 mgm/l: 248
    Number of trained physicians: 94
    Distribution of field kits: 11 Thanas of 6 Districts (affected).

What Is Being Done
To test water with field kits

To identify patients, give first aid and follow-up
To raise awareness and train health care
To test nail, hair and tissue (Limited)
To recommend for formation of Districts Arsenic Review Committee
To train up physicians
To advise the civil surgeons to follow up the patients and if necessary, to admit the patients in the Hospitals
The executive engineers are advised to supply contamination free water. Besides Districts executive engineers are advised to locally test the tube-wells (shallow and deep)
A complete survey was done in the village Samta of Sharsha Thana of Jessore with the help of NIPSOM, Dhaka and Asia Arsenic Network. With the joint cooperation of the above two institutions 300 Domestic Filters to decontaminate arsenic water are to be ensured.

                    CHAPTER III




The selected area was the small village at Bharotakury union in Zakiganj upazila in Sylhet district. Its name was Pillakhandi. It was the frontier village of the country. Zakiganj upazilla is the entirely northern side of our country and this village is situated in this upazilla. But this village is located before going to the main town. It is the roadside village of this upazilla. For going to this village, one must follow the Zakiganj-Gulapganj high way. At that way, one must find several markets such as fish market, vegetable market and different kinds of shops etc. From Sylhet to Zakiganj road, its length is almost 85 kilometers. After going from Kaliganj bazaar, the village will be closer anyone and that may be remained 10 to 15 kilometers. After reached to Sharifganj bazaar, there have left side-unmetalled road to enter the village. The village is located beside the Khusiara River. This river comes from India in that way. 

            Village Pillakhandi, the selected study area is situated in Mirjapur Mouza. Mirjapur Mouza is 431-acre width. In this Mouza, its households were 382 and populations were 2127. From the 1991 population census, male and female distributions were respectively 1,048 and 1,079. Percentage of literacy rate was 22.9%. In this rate, male was 32% and female was 13.9%.
The population of the village “Pillakhandi” was 1650. Its male and female distribution was respectively 750 and 900. In this area, the total household was almost 300. 


            If we compare this study area with city, there are no facilities for that people. At first, if we consider how anyone goes to that village, then he has to think several times. Because, the Zakiganj-Gulapganj road is too bad to go. Besides, the village streets are an unmetalled. For this, in the rainy season, people have many sufferings. Villagers have no electricity. Although, the electricity reached to the Sharifganj Bazar, but the villagers are excluded from that facility. On the other hand, people use firewood for cooking, which is collected from village market or gather from the bush.
            In the village, there is not available transport facility. Almost every times people go anywhere on foot. However, if they go to town or city, they use bus or same kind of vehicles. On the Zakiganj road, regular bus services are available.
            There is a Bazar (marketplace) near the village, which is called Sharifganj Bazar. There were some grocer’s shop, fish corner and tea stalls. It is noticeable that there is a cell phone shop in the Sharifganj Bazar. Villagers often come to that shop and use it to contact with the outsider relatives. Villagers buy anything from that marketplace. The mosque was located in the village and hence people of the other side attended mosques of other village. The school was not situated in the village. The school was located near the Sharifganj.

The demographic factors constitute some of the most critical parameters to assess the socioeconomic condition. Population growth and population movement, more precisely the demographic shifts are very important in the village context to understand the available resource potentials and its allocation. From this perspective the existing village studies do not always provide systematic information, which is one of the major shortcomings of village studies in Bangladesh. Thus in anthropology, the demography of human populations is best understood as human population ecology. The health of a human population is both cause and consequence of its vital rate and growth or decline in its members.

Density of the population:
The selected study area, the Pillarkhandi village is in the Zakiganj Upazilla at Mirjapur mouza, which is the frontier upazilla of the Sylhet district. In the Zakiganj upazilla, there are large populations. From the 2000 census report, the population of that upazilla was 198220. This upazilla occupies an area of 287.33 sq.km. In this upazilla, there are 18 unions, 148 mouzas and 288 villages.
In that large population, 99400 were males, 9820 were females, 98220 were the below eighteen years. In the Zakiganj upazilla, there were 33460 households.
In the Mirjapur mouza, land occupies 431 acres. From the 1991 population census, there were 2127 populations. According to that census, 1,048 were males and 1,079 were females. The households were 382. In that mouza, the literacy rate was 22.9%, 32% was male and 13.9% was female.
In the study area, population was approximately 1650 and land area was almost 30 acres. In this population, 900 were females and 750 were male.

Average household size:
    In the selected study area, there were 300 households. The average household size for the study area was 5.5 persons per household. In this context, the national household average is 5.6 persons. In the Zakiganj upazilla, the household size was 5.9 persons and Mirjapur mouza was 5.6 persons per household.

Economic conditions:

Sketching the research report, the researcher has studied the economic condition of the selected community. It is the significant for any research work. The various economic conditions have been portrayed in this paper.

Living condition as economic perspective:

    The villagers are living in simple. They are not high ambitious. It is the general condition of the village of our country. The selected study area is not exception in this sense. The whole picture of the village shows the condition of simplicity. Most of the people were living in poor economic situation. The economic conditions are revealed in their social life. There were different occupational people in this village. Those are described here.


Villagers were engaging diversified economic activities. But agriculture was the main source of income. Most of the people were working on land. However, most of them were not own land for cultivating. Growing paddy was the principle work for cultivation. Those who have no land, they worked with other land as borgachashi. Some of them have an own land. In this criterion, some are working on their land directly. On the hand, some are not engaging with their land directly.
    In the village, there are great numbers of fishermen. Because, there is a river near the village. People are easily catch fish. In this community, several are not full time fishermen. As catching, they are also working another job. People are selling this fish near Sharifganj bazar.
    There are other employees in this village. Those are cooker, service men, grocery holder, businessmen and employer. Some of them were working in the town. In the village, few people are living in abroad. Villagers said that approximately 50 or 60 people are living in different countries; most are in Middle East countries.
    In the study area, females were not involved directly in income generating activities. Most were working in their house as housewives. 
     In the village, a great number of populations are unproductive. They are able to work, that is, they are children.
    The researcher took data from 25 people. Of them, different occupational people were included. The picture of the occupation of the village people is represented in the table below:

Occupational description    Frequency    Percentage      
Cultivating    8    32%      
Fishermen    6    30%      
Grocer    4    16%      
Cooker    1    4%      
Tea stole    1    4%      
Other business men    2    8%      
Imam    1    4%      
Housewives    2    8%   
Table: distribution of population by their profession

Landholding and cultivable land:

As described earlier that, cultivation was the major income source for the selected population. In the village, landholding criteria were same as other rural area in Bangladesh. Few people in the village have an own land. Most of the people have no land, but they are working in the field. People who have a land, they are divided by two criteria. Those who are not working directly in the field, often they rent their land for cultivation to other men. After cultivation, the crops are divided between them.
    Other who have no land, they take a land by rent, which is called borgachas. Many of them are so poor that they can maintain their family properly. Several times they take a loan, but cannot pay it in time. Sometimes, they take loan from the n.g.o. That suffers them many times. It is noticeable that there are no female workers in the cultivation. Most of them are working in their own house.
    In the village, the cultivable land was not enough for everybody. The ownership of cultivable land was as an important variable in the determination of a family’s status in the study area. In this village, it is notice that landholding has been running from generation to generation. But this has been also divided from generation to generation. That process also exited in the village.

Homestead landholding:

It is the prestigious matter for villagers. But it true that almost all households were gotten homestead land more or less. The homestead land ownership was also correlated with economic status. Homestead landholding has been occupied from generation to generation.

Other economic activities:


It is the second income for that rural people. Fishing community had large in the village. It is easy for people to catch fish. Because the river is close to the village. The river, Khusiara is situated backside of the village. After catching, they sold the fish to the Sharifganj Bazar.

In the village, some households are engaging for producing vegetables in their house field. Most of the females are working for that production. This production has no commercial purpose. There were some fruit trees in each homestead like mango, papaya banana, jackfruits etc. Each household usually produced some vegetables for household consumption


    Almost every household has a poultry or livestock. Basically, women are working poultry and live stock rising. In this context the male contribution was comparatively less. More or less in every household they have cows, calves, goats, chickens, ducks. Often all those are keeping for household purposes not for income.

Level of income:

The level of income provides the basis for class differentiation, because the local people were occupationally heterogeneous and involved in diversified economic activities. Income level shows the social and condition of the villagers.  Discussion on below shows the sources of income in the selected area.

Sources of income:

    People of the area are involving in different economic activities. Their economic activities are not in the same position.
Agricultural crops production was the first income source for villagers. Second larger source was the fishing. Third was the grocery and shopkeeper. Forth income source was business. And fifth was service.

Economic classes:

     There were different economic classes as base different economic activities. Income level was determined the economic classes. How much resources were keeping per person or household, which showed the classes. In this research, the researcher identified the three economic classes. Those were as follow:

The Rich Household    4    16%      
The Middle Household    8    32%      
The Poor Household    13    52%      
Total    25       
Table -Distribution Of Households By Their Economic Status.

Political condition:

    Most people of this area were not concern about politics. They did not think about national politics. But few of them thought about the politics. Within them were engaging in local politics. Actually local politics were too much influence by the national politics. Politically the people of this village were divided different groups base on national party such as Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Bangladesh Auamileage, Bangladesh Jamaity Islam etc.
    But there were few fractions in the village depend on local power. Talking with one of the member in this union, he was not too concern about politics. But he was the leader of this area. It was seemed that people of this area were peace keeping. They were not doing any destructive activities for power exercise.


    There were two main religions in the village. Those were Muslim and Hindu. However, Muslim was largest community in the village. Every few people were Hindu. The surrounding villages were also of Muslim majority. It was reported that none was converted to other religions at least within three generations. But in the village, there were not existed any religious clash. People were acting their own religion as oneself.
    But religion had far reaching effect on the social life of the villagers. Muslim religious perception was for women that they did not go out of the house, were deprived of their civil rights due to this system. Again due to devotion to religion they were found to receive religions healing during physical illness. But people were not as fanatic as people of other areas of Bangladesh. The religions institution in the village was the mosque. Every body attended this mosque during the daily prayer times and the mosque was the basis of their religions solidarity. The young and middle aged people were found not to say their prayer regularly. But as because Friday prayer had much importance every body attended the Friday Prayer in the mosque.
    It was watching that Hindu people were not so serious about their religion. However, they have been exercising their religious practice more or less. But their hard rules and regulation of their religion were not practiced. 

Education and literacy:

In the study area, the literacy rate was very low. Most of the people in the village were not aware about education. There was only one primary school in the village. But most of the children did not go the school. Their parents were not careful about their children. Only few of them were going to school, which was located in the village, name “Shah Sharif Primary School.” School was not fully not in the under of government. The situation of the School was not well.
Many times they end up their education when they are growing old. Only few of them are continuing their education. One them was Rajkumar, he was 15 years old who had just passed the S.S.C examination.
      Many of them cannot read or write. But everybody took a fundamental religious education. The center for religious education was mosque. They took a lesson there on religion. In this area, female education was rare. Very girls were going to school. It was not expected rate. From the 1991 population census, there was 22.9% literacy in Mirjapur mouza, where 32% was male and 13.9% was female. From another census in 2000, there was 44.81% literacy in Zakigonj upazilla.
Two very important aspects regarding education were observable. This might be mentioned as (i) attitude towards female education was negative in the area and (ii) schooling and the rate of literacy were sharply correlated with economic status of people.  


In the Pillakhandi village, most people lived on very worse condition than town. They had limited income. From their income, they cannot maintain their family properly. Their housing pattern showed their economic condition. Many houses were built by mud and tin. From this viewpoint, housing design, construction pattern, housing materials etc. are discussed below.

Housing design:
In the village, their house design depended on some intervening factors like the number of family members, type of family, the economic condition and the concept of privacy (Muslim system). The homesteads were designed in such a way that outsiders or strangers could not see or visited inside without permission of the house owner.
In designing a homestead (Bari). The ‘Uthan’ (premises) occupied a central position. On all sides of the ‘Uthan’ were constructed the dwelling ghars (houses), and kitchens. A bit farther were constructed the latrines. And on all sides lying vacant gardening was planned. It was a gardening of what not. Banana, coconut, mango, vegetables etc. were planted making suitable purdah to the house. In the study area some houses were found to have fencing at the outer boundary from all sides. This ensured their privacy from outside the house. Besides, coconut’s leaves were kept at the front side of the house as purdah (veil).
In almost all homesteads there were two living houses. Houses were raised at right angles to the other. The top view of the homesteads was a rectangle or square, the ‘Uthan’ lying at the center. If any portion of the homestead appeared to be vacant some luxuriously growing plants like banana, coconut etc. were grown. As if the inner view of house was blocked. Through a certain corner or on a side preferably from eastern or western side there was the entrance with a movable obstacle made or tin or bamboo or straw. Kitchen was raised on any side of the ‘Uthan’. The location of the tube well was changed due to iron in the water. As a result no definite place for a tube well was seen in any homestead. But in search of good drainage tube wells were generally sank on the boundary of the homestead.
The houses (ghars) were not generally longer than 30 feet and 15 feet in breadth. These were partitioned with fencing made of bamboo. Houses with only one room was also constructed in a homestead either jointly with other members of the homestead or by a single member. Generally guests were accommodated here.


Most of the houses were made of mud and bamboo. The roof was generally made of tin. Very few houses made of cemented wall and tin roof were visible in the study area. In few cases roofs were made of straw. It was observed that most doors were made of wood. It was observed that windows were made of wood and wooden frame.

Kitchens were not well built with a few exceptions. These had tin in the roofs and walls on all sides. Latrines were hanging with cover on all sides and tin on the roofs.


    Housing materials were collected mainly from two sources: market and local agricultural sources. Permanent and costly materials were generally collected from the market. These were industrial materials like, Cement, rods, bricks, stones etc. Local agricultural vegetative sources of housing materials were straws, stables, coconut leaves, sugarcane leaves, bamboo etc. and some binding materials.

The industrial materials like rood, tin, cement, bricks etc. were costly and the rural people could not afford to buy them for construction of their houses. It was only the rich people who bought them to construct permanent houses. Mostly people raised thatched houses with bamboo, straw, stubble’s etc. But now a day these were also not easily available. In the height of the above we can classify the houses into low cost and costly houses. 







In this chapter, there will be discussed the contamination of arsenic in the study area. How this was emerged and affected by arsenic contamination in the selected area. How they adapted with this new crisis, local knowledge about arsenic contamination, arsenocosis diseases. In the study population, they were how much concerned about arsenic contamination, their collecting water from other sources. All those are discussed here.

The history of arsenic contamination in the study area:

    The study area was the vulnerable and marginal side of our country. Most of the people are poor in this area. Before two years ago, arsenic contamination was unknown for them. They did not know that most of the tube well of their area were contaminated with arsenic. People of this area set up tube wells for drinking safe water. Because, many development workers suggested that the ground water was safe for drinking. After listening that word, they are using the ground water. Before drinking tube wells water, they used surface water such as pond, river water for drinking and other purposes. But that water was highly polluted by different germs and bacteria. Most of the people were suffered for drinking that water. So, people were looking for safe drinking water.
    When they heard that the ground water was safe for drinking, they set up tube wells for withdrawing ground water. But few days ago, they were again listened that groundwater was also polluted by high toxic material name “Arsenic”. After set up tube wells, those were not tested for arsenic. Therefore, it was believed that people of this area had been drinking arsenic contaminated water a long time.
    Two years ago, Public Health Department searched and tested the tube wells, and then they found high arsenic concentration in those tube wells. Then they colored or marked red the affected tube wells and colored green as for non-affected tube wells. Recently, Public Health Department found 82.07% arsenic affected tube wells in the Zakiganj upazila. It was alarming.
    It was also dangerous that people of this area were drinking water from the affected tube wells. Because, Public Health Department has finished their work after identified. They did not precede their work to create awareness. Thus, people did not take it seriously.
    From this above discussion, it is clear that arsenic contamination was not new for that area. It was affected from the beginning of the contamination. And there will be exited an arsenocosis patients. But they were not focused, because of danger of social sufferings.         

Water management facility was rare in this area. People were suffered by safe drinking water. Although once they have taken water from tube wells, now they fall in deep crisis for drinking. From 1960, tube wells were the main source of drinking water and household purposes. But today 98% of tube wells water was contaminated by arsenic. Thus, the people of this area were looking for another source of water. For that purpose, they were taking surface water such as river water, which was located beside the village. On the other hand, they were also drinking rainwater. One of the families was observed that they were drinking rainwater and few of them were taken pond water. Three case studies have been taken here.


          Besides, people of this area were drinking pond’s water, which was highly polluted. In the village, there were no reliable sources of drinking water as observed. That was pathetic for the villagers. One the female villagers complained for that crisis. Her family was getting pond water for drinking and other purposes.


In the village, there was one deep tube well. That was set up by Public Health Department, its owner told the reporter. Neighboring families were collected water from this deep tube well. It was not contaminated and iron free water. One of the case study has been described here.

From this above discussion, it was concerned that the people were not drinking safe water, although they understood that those water were polluted. Because they have no reliable sources of drinking water and safe water management system.


    The study area was the marginal side of the district. The communication system with the city was very bad in condition. Besides, knowledge sharing with others was difficult for the village people. The arsenic contamination of the tube wells water was detected in the year 2002 by DPHE. From then, they were familiarized with arsenic pollution. Before then, it was totally unknown about this condition. But it was imagined that the area was contaminated with arsenic from the beginning. The knowledge about arsenic contamination in ground water of local people was little, not perfect. Many of them expressed that they knew about arsenic contamination from the television program, from others people and different development observers such as N.G.O or G.O field activists.
    At that time, people of the village were almost aware. But in the village, there was not alternative safe drinking water. Although they were avoided the contaminated water, they again were drinking another polluted water such as pond, river water. On the other hand, few were taking contaminated water for not availability of other sources. Besides, the tube wells that were not tested before, those have not tested so far. So, the people were unknown about the contamination of the untested tube wells. They have no sincere about that matter which was observed. One of the case studies has been revealed below, which will be showed that they were not perfectly concerned about arsenic contamination.



The research report was conducted to identify the arsenicosis patients. But it was very tough to find out. Because people of this area were not co-operative for this matter. They all were telling that there was no arsenicosis patient in this area. But how much they were drinking arsenic contaminated water, it was obviously conformed that there was arsenicosis patient. But they did not tell about arsenicosis patient. It was a vague cause for not telling about arsenic patient.
It was tried to collect appropriate data from the selected study area. From the villagers, it was understood that there were no arsenicosis diseases. But it was observed that many of the villagers outer side of the body was similar to look like arsenicosis. But they were not concerned about that. They treated it as general shin broken. 


Local knowledge about arsenocosis in the study area was investigated in the following way-
How people think about the causes of arsenocosis
What did they know about the syndrom
Did they gather about arsenicosis
Did they know what will be happened if it is occurred
What will be done then

All those will be discussed here.

Local knowledge about arsenicosis diseases was not clear. They just knew that if they drink arsenic contaminated water, they would be suffered. What will be happened, where it affects the people, how long it will be existed, how much its severity, how it will affect the people – all those question were unknown for them. Because the development worker just finished their work to identify the tube wells. But they did not work farther to inform the arsenicosis diseases. So, it will be occurred, people cannot identify the diseases. 
They only just knew that different kinds skin diseases would be exposed, if it will occur. But they do not know that it also affects the internals body of human. They do not know the dangerous diseases such as cancer; internal cancer of bladder, kidney and lungs will be affected, if the diseases will emerge.
There was much hearsay about arsenicosis diseases. Many of them thought that it was the punishment of sin. God gives punishment to disobedient person.









In every society, it has a defined surrounding, where human relationship with each other has occurred. People behave with each other as their own social perspective. People cannot overcome their own social structure easily. It must be depend on collective consciousness. But every society often falls in different impact, which may change the society’s different parts. These parts may be society’s institution such as family, its norms, values, behaviors and its perception etc. Impact may influence the relationship of each other. Here we can define ‘impact’ as alternations in behavioral patterns and institutional configurations, the conditions of existence, contents of experience and modes of expression caused by some natural event or human intervention.
The case of arsenic contamination in Pillarkhandi was a natural event. This event had existed for a long time in this area. But it was for the first time that the event was unveiled in 2002 by Public Health Organization. From then, people of this area were concerned about this contamination. After that, two of the N.G.O. have worked for arsenic contamination in this area. So, people of that area knew that their area was affected by arsenic contamination.
So under the condition impact of arsenic contamination was not limited environmental problem; it left a wider impact on the society also. The present study tried to represent social impact of arsenism in ways focusing on immediate impacts. The impacts, which influence the human relationship with each other, those create few effects. Those are described here.

Impact on perception

In the study area, people were very concerned about arsenic contamination in their tube well water. Once they thought that tube well water was safe for drinking. Many of them set up tube well for drinking safe water. But recently they heard that tube well water was not safe as their thinking. After finding arsenic concentration in ground water, the perception about tube well water has changed. Once many people were drinking ground water, now many of they have changed their behavior in many respects. They were drinking rainwater, surface water such as pond water, river water. Thus, it was observed that they changed their behavior in this perspective. Because, they were now frightened to drink ground water. This pollution changed their perception about ground water. One of the examples has been showed below.



Impact on relationship

Arsenic hazard has been new phenomenon in our country. From 1993, we have been hearing about arsenic concentration in ground water. In 2002, the arsenic contamination of ground water was found in the selected study area “Pillakhandi.” At that moment, people of this area knew about that new threat. The identifier organization “Public Health Organization” had marked the affected tube well as red color and non-affected as green color. Many tube wells were then identified as arsenic contaminated. They told the village people not to drink contaminated well’s water. Most people’s house tubes well were banned for that contamination. Thus, those affected houses were collecting water from neighboring house non-affected tube well water. Because, many of them had no capacity to setup another tube well. So, they collected water from others. Often that created a bad impact with each other.
People who were taking water from other’s tube well, they often fell in a hinder. Because, neighboring house member often did not co-operate with their affected neighbors. They obstructed them not to take water. Besides, non-affected tube well owners often showed their proud for getting a non-polluted tube well. This was new relationship for them before find arsenic in tube well water.
On the other hand, many people helped vulnerable neighboring household, it was also observed. Often it was showed that it was increasing relationship and strong in their unity. This area was influenced socially by arsenic contamination in ground water.   


Gender dimension here refers to the male female relationship of the village under study. Traditionally the women are dominated in the context of gender relationship.  Below is an attempt to revel the impact of arsenic contamination the male female relation. It was assumed that the women play a three fold role in the society: (1) the reproductive role (2) the productive role and (3) the community role. Eventually these three aspects were incorporated in the process of investigation.

             Traditionally women are, one of the most vulnerable groups in the society. In the context of power, males were predominant over the females in Pillarkhandi village. Here women were discriminated and paid little attention socially. In this consideration the position of women had deteriorated and their vulnerability increased.

    Affected families whose tube wells were identified to be contaminated were collecting water from neighboring tube wells. Traditionally collection of water is the duty of rural women. The ethics of division of labor was defined in that way for the woman folk. In this context the load for woman work had increased. This extra workload for women increased their vulnerability greatly for different social constraints. This situation was observed in the selected study area.

Traditionally, women cannot make any decision in our country. They were dominated by their male partner. This was watched in the selected area. Tube wells were found arsenic in this area. Many tube well were affected. Most family cannot use their tube well because of arsenic. It was observed that few women were too much concerned than their male partner. They always warned their family member. But often their male did not importance their words. One of the cases has picked up in this research. Thus, we watched the inequality between fame and female in decision-making. The example has been showed here.

Arsenic contamination in water had greatly stimulated the existing social prestige and honor. This left an indirect impact on social structure. Arsenic pollution of drinking water added a new dimension to the former indicators of social honor and prestige.
It was observed in the selected village “Pillarkhandi.” People of this area were now falling in different haphazard situation, which influenced their former social honor and prestige. When the Public Health Organization found the arsenic contamination in the tube well water in this area, people of this area frightened to hear about it. This organization identified the contaminated tube wells and marked those as red and uncontaminated as green. For this many tube wells were banned for finding arsenic contamination in tube well. Once many families had been drinking tube well for a long time. But now they were fallen in deep crisis. It is not only affect their basic need but also affect their social life. Families whose tube wells were affected, this situation was often lessening their status and honor. Because people of non-affected tube well ignored them. They did not communicate with them. Although, it was not existed before finding arsenic contamination in tube well, the villagers of affected tube well accused. Often conflict was observed on collection of arsenic free water in Pillarkhandi village, especially among women. This lowered the honor and prestige of anyone of the family or group.
The researcher watched that the environmental consequence of arsenic contamination affects on the social structure of the village by that way. Again, another problem had been occurred in this area. When people of the affected tube well water wanted to collect water from other non-affected tube well, often they were neglected. That situation lessened social prestige of affected household. One example illustrated here.


Arsenic pollution in groundwater in the study area was found in 2002. Before discover arsenic contamination in ground water, the people of this area had been drinking tube well water till then. But after finding, they stopped to drink tube well water. It was noticed that the village was isolated from then. Other non-affected area’s people avoided coming in this area, it was reported by the affected area. Different isolated behavior had been observed when the arsenic contamination was found in the selected village. Non-affected area’s people did not communicate with them. Most of them did not want to keep relation with them, which was not occurred before. Besides, other arsenic free area did not want to make marriage relationship with affected area. Affected area’s population complained all those. On the other hand, affected area’s people cannot make any new relationship with other. Those make a panic situation in the contaminated area. Thus, the affected area felt an isolated from other.

Arsenic contamination in the subsurface drinking water have created a problem of geographical mobility, which is expected to give rise to a huge environmental refugees in the coming future. The problem of arsenic contamination was regional, localized and area specific. Some of the respondents had already experienced that living outside the affected area they felt better. They could not cope with the prevailing circumstances with the available resource. So a trend was observed to shift their houses to a safer place, if feasible.
The arsenic found in 2002 in the selected study area. Before that, people were not concerned about arsenic contamination. They did not know about it. When they heard that their area was contaminated with arsenic. They felt fright. They thought that area was affected by evil spirit. Many of them searched new place to go out of the affected area. This created a residential mobility. They thought that they felt better if they changed their affected resident. Thus, we may watch that this environmental hazard makes a new mobility.

If the environment is not friendly with people, then it will affect the corresponding area. For living better health situation, we need environment better. Otherwise, different kind of social and physical problem will be created. Thus, public health mostly depends on its related ecology and environment. As we know, the arsenic contamination of ground water is environmental consequence. We also know that it is mostly depended on geology. If any area is affected with arsenic pollution, then it influences different sectors of particular area. Public health problem is one of them. Because safe drinking water in our planet is very scarce. For this, people drink contaminated ground water or polluted surface water, if water management system has not available there. The public health problems of the selected area are described here due to lack of safe drinking water.


The selected study area was suffered by arsenic contamination. Most of the tube wells were contaminated by arsenic. The DPHE identified the contaminated tube well and sealed them not to drink. Once the villagers thought that tube well water was safe for drinking, but now they watched it also affected. Thus, they were searching other sources for drinking water. But in this area, there were no reliable sources of drinking water.
At last, they were drinking surface water such as pond, nearby river water or rainwater. But the surface water of this selected area was highly polluted due to germs and pollutants. But they were drinking. That cause created different health problems. People of this area were suffered by various diseases such as typhoid, diarrheas, and liver problem, jaundice etc. Besides, male, female and children were suffering stomach diseases. Those were happened due to lack of safe water. 
Sometimes, people were drinking arsenic contaminated water for affected tube well. Thus, it may be guessed that different kinds of arsenicosis diseases (skin diseases) such as melanosis,  karatosis, hypercaratosis and skin lesion has affected this people. But it was unseen for them, so they did not complain or understand. One of the examples of diarrhea child patient has taken here.







Safe water supply in the arsenic contaminated areas is a priority to avoid arsenic poisoning. Thus, people of the affected areas are needed fresh drinking water. Alternative water supply systems would replace the contaminated tube wells. 29 millions people exposed to arsenic contaminated in excess of 50 µg/l will require alternative safe water supplies. The available alternative options are area dependent and have their relative advantage and disadvantages. Hence, no single option can serve the purpose or respond to needs of the people having different social and economic conditions. The following alternative options may be considered for water supply in the arsenic affected areas.

Deep tube well
Deep tube well may be installed to avoid shallow arsenic contaminated aquifers where suitable arsenic safe deep aquifers are available to produce water of acceptable quality for water supply. Manually operated deep tube wells are source of safe and reliable water supply in many parts of the coastal area. The manually operated deep tube wells have very low drawdown and insignificant impact on hydraulics of deep aquifers. It is important to first delineate the areas where such deep aquifers are available that are separated from shallow contaminated aquifers by relatively impermeable layers. The boreholes of the deep tube wells are required to be sealed at the level of impermeable strata to avoid percolation of arsenic contaminated water. An aquifer formed by oxidized coarse reddish sands appears to be safe for installation of tube wells. Hydrogeological investigations are needed to delineate suitable deep aquifers and ascertain the mechanism of recharge and possibility of contamination of these aquifers. 

Pond sand filters

A prospective option for development of surface water based water supply system is the construction of community type slow sand filters commonly known as “Pond Sand Filter.” It is a package type slow sand filter unit development to treat surface waters, usually low-saline pond water, for domestic water supply in the coastal areas. Slow and filters are installed near or on the bank of a pond, which does not dry up in the dry season. The water from the pond is pumped by a manually operated hand tube well to feed the filter bed, which is raised from the ground, and the treated water is collected through taps. It has been found and tested that the treated water from a PSF is normally bacteriologically safe or within tolerable limits. The PSF is a low-cost technology with very high efficiency in turbidity and bacterial removal. It has received preference as an alternative water supply system for medium size settlements in arsenic affected areas.  Although PSF has very high bacterial removal efficiency, it may not remove 100% of the pathogens from heavily contaminated surface water. In such cases, the treated water may require chlorination to meet drinking water standards.
It has some limitations. Those are as follows:
Operation and maintenance are difficult;
Not suitable for heavily contaminated ponds;
People complained of foul taste in pond water and many resorted to using it for cooking only;
Conflicts with fish culture;

Dug well

Dug well may be constructed where feasible for arsenic safe water supplies. Dug well is the oldest method of ground water withdrawl for water supplies. The water of the dug well has been found to be free from dissolved arsenic and iron even in locations where tube wells are contaminated. Dug wells are widely used in many countries of the world for domestic water supply.
The areas with aquifers at shallower depth and the hilly area are suitable fro the construction of dug wells. The areas with thick consolidated clay layers like the Madupur and Barind tracts are not suitable for dug well construction. A large diameter dug well installed in favorable aquifer can be used for community water supplies. Sanitary protection and care monitoring of water quality are essential components of dug well based water supplies. Unstable soil conditions in many places will require lining or side protection, which will make system expensive. There are also construction difficulties in the wet season when water table rises up.
It is very difficult to protect the water of the dug well from bacterial contamination. Percolation of contaminated surface water is the most common route of pollution of well water. The upper part of the well lining and the space between the wall and soil require proper sealing. The construction of an apron around the well can prevents entry of contaminated used water at the well site by seepage into the well. Water in a dug well is very easily contaminated if the well is open and the water is drawn using bucket and rope. Satisfactory protection against bacteriological contamination is possible by sealing the well top with a watertight concrete slab. Water may be withdrawn by installation of disinfection after construction. A conventional dug well and a dug well with sanitary protection sunk in most common soil strata in Bangladesh.
Pitcher filter

Surface water containing impurities can be clarified by a pitcher filter unit or small sand filter at the household level. It is an old method of water purification, once widely used in rural areas of Bangladesh. These processes of water treatment at household level have been phased out with the introduction of tube wells for village water supply. Pitcher filters are constructed by staking a number pitcher (Kalshis), one above other. Raw water is poured in the top Kalshis and filtered water is collected from the bottom one. In this process, water is mainly clarified by the mechanical straining and adsorption depending of the type of filter media used.  
The characteristics of household filters are:
Suitable for surface water treatment;
Remove turbidity, color and micro-organisms;
Complete removal of pathogenic micro-organism is not guaranteed;
Not suitable for high-turbid water;
Difficulty in cleaning and keeping the system operational 

Rainwater harvesting

Rainwater harvesting has good potential for water supply in arsenic and salinity affected areas in Bangladesh. People need motivation to adopt this system of water supply. Because of the requirement for large catchment areas and storage tank due to unequal distribution of rainfall throughout the year, rainwater harvesting should be a household option and designed to meet the demand for drinking and cooking water only. The catchment area and storage tank need standardization in relation to rainfall intensity and distribution in Bangladesh.

Few alternative water sources are discussed above. But there have more alternative water supplies are exited. One can be installed as depend on the regional, social and economic condition.


Arsenic found in the ground water in Bangladesh in 1993. From then, different organizations have been working for solving water crisis. Besides, foreign aid agency has also funded for its prevention. Governmental organization and non-governmental organization have been also working together. Those different organizations activities are discussed below.


Although in 1993, the presence of arsenic in tube well water was first detected, the magnitude and extent of problem was not known clearly before 1997. Then DPHE, conducted tests of tube wells water samples from different districts randomly and a comprehensive test could not be done due to lack of testing facilities in Bangladesh. DPHE with the donor agencies is conducting various survey, study and mitigation activities in the country. A brief on few arsenic related projects is as follows.

Under the assistance of UNICEF the testing of arsenic in water sample of the tube well water with field kit was started from July 1997 all over the country. Over 50 thousand tests were conducted and in 190 Upazilas presence of arsenic contamination was found. The survey indicated a contamination of 27% tube well among the tested wells.
DPHE-UNICEF action research project in 5 Upazilas was implemented of the affected areas. The activities were conducted by engaging 4 NGOS. The four major activities conducted in these 5 Upazilas. A total number of 105179 tube wells have been tested and an average contamination of 60% was found and 744 arsenicosis patients were identified.
DPHE-UNICEF has started a similar program in 15 Upazilas under arsenic affected area. Under this project by November 2001 a total of 221174 tube wells water samples have been tested out which 70% were found contamination.
 DPHE also has done and continuing different activities for removal of arsenic problem.


  Bangladesh Arsenic Mitigation Water Supply Project was conceptualized jointly by government of Bangladesh, the World Bank, and the swiss agency for development and cooperation. The project was launched in September 1998. Project activities include understanding of the arsenic problem through national survey; strengthening implementation capacity of the local government entities and community based organization; and onsite mitigation through subproject development and implementation by the community based organization.


The water and environmental sanitation (WES) program of UNICEF improves access of safe water and sanitation, especially in un-and under served areas, works with government and it s partners to mitigate the arsenic crisis and is also promoting a sanitation and hygienic package for school children.


BRAC, in collaboration with DPHE and UNICEF, has been conducting an action research program on community-based arsenic mitigation in two Upazilas since 1999. The objectives of this project are to assess the technical viability and effectiveness of various alternative safe water options as well as their social acceptance. BRAC also screens tube wells for arsenic contamination, building awareness among communities, identifies arsenic patients and provides medical care.


In October 1997, Grameen Bank has started an arsenic mitigation pilot project with assistance of UNICEF and DPHE. The main objective of the project includes screening of tube wells, awareness and capacity building of the community and community-based solution for arsenic contamination area.

Those organizations are not only working, there are other organizations, which also work for solving arsenic problem.







Arsenic contamination in ground water is now alarming news for our world. Because arsenic in ground water is now found almost all over the world. In USA, several regions of the continental United States draw water from wells that have been shown to be arsenic contaminated. In addition to the Indian sub-continent and the U.S.A., arsenic contamination has been identified as a concern in Argentina, Chile, China, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Mongolia, Taiwan, Thailand, and several areas in the U.K. The extent of the problem in these areas is only now becoming apparent. In Bangladesh and India, it has been identified the serious condition for a long time.
Once, one of the most important public health issues in Bangladesh and India is the availability of clean drinking water. Prior to the 1970s, most drinking water in rural areas in these countries was drawn from surface water bodies or from shallow, hand-dug wells. This water was frequently contaminated with bacteria from sewage systems and industrial plants and the bacterial contamination caused widespread epidemics of cholera and other illnesses. In an effort to correct this situation, local governments and several aid organizations embarked on programmes to construct a network of drilled tube wells 20-100 meters deep which would provide water free of bacterial contamination. More than nine million tube wells have been drilled in Bangladesh alone over a 20-30 year period and 97% of the Bangladesh's 120 million people drink water taken from tube wells. Each of these wells serves a small community of approximately 10 families and is operated by a simple hand pump.
Unfortunately, the safe water programme has had an unintended side effect that has equally serious consequences for public health. Several million of these wells have been found to be arsenic contaminated. Arsenic levels in the affected tube wells are typically in excess of 200 µg/l and in many areas, concentrations can exceed 1,000 µg/l. The World Health Organization recommends a level of 0.01mg/L of arsenic but the governments of Bangladesh and India regard 0.05m/L--a level five times higher--as acceptable. But most of the tube wells have overcome those levels. A study in 1998, by the British Geological Survey, found that 35% of the wells they investigated had an arsenic level of over 50 µg/l. Estimates indicate that between 25 million and 75 million people may be affected by these contaminated wells. A ruthless killer in Bangladesh's drinking water is making millions of people sick and may be causing as many as 3,000 deaths each year.
Now it was a public health matter and a real concern for a country where health services were already under intense pressure for as contamination spread the pressure increased for by that time a large number of people had been affected by drinking water from the wells in more than half the 64 districts of Bangladesh, mainly in the south western, middle and north-eastern parts of the country. Arsenic-contamination and its effect on the health and well-being of the people of Bangladesh had now reached crisis proportion because for most of the victims, there was no alternative to tube well water unless it was to go back to drinking polluted surface water.
Arsenic was occurred in ground water by different ways. Arsenic is widely distributed throughout the earth's crust.
Arsenic is introduced into water through the dissolution of minerals and ores, and concentrations in groundwater in some areas are elevated as a result of erosion from local rocks. Industrial effluents also contribute arsenic to water in some areas. Arsenic is also used commercially e.g. in alloying agents and wood preservatives. Combustion of fossil fuels is a source of arsenic in the environment through disperses atmospheric deposition.
Inorganic arsenic can occur in the environment in several forms but in natural waters, and thus in drinking water, it is mostly found as trivalent arsenite (As (III)) or pentavalent arsenate (As (V)). Organic arsenic species, abundant in seafood, are very much less harmful to health, and are readily eliminated by the body.
Drinking water poses the greatest threat to public health from arsenic. Exposure at work and mining and industrial emissions may also be significant locally.
The arsenic probably originates in the Himalayan headwaters of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, and has lain undisturbed beneath the surface of the region’s deltas for thousands of years in thick layers of fine alluvial mud smeared across the area by the rivers.
According to David Kinniburgh of the British Geological Survey, who has recently completed a detailed study of the arsenic’s route into millions of tube wells, the arsenic concentration in the mud is not extraordinary.
The mud in Bangladesh lies thicker, wider and flatter than almost anywhere on Earth. It can take hundreds or thousands of years for underground water to percolate through the mud before reaching the sea. All the while it is absorbing arsenic.
For arsenic contamination in Bangladesh, a huge social and health disaster is developing that has received virtually no news coverage. Millions of people in rural areas are being slowly but surely poisoned as they drink from water supplies contaminated with small but nevertheless potentially fatal quantities of arsenic.
The arsenic poisoning has taken a terrible social as well as physical toll. Thousands of men, women and children with visible signs of poisoning have been ostracized in village and rural regions by friends and neighbors who thought the victims were suffering from a contagious disease. Men have been refused jobs, children have been abandoned and families have split up.
Thus, it was observed that arsenic poisoning creates different crises. That may be social and physical. Most people think that arsenic poisoning is the curse for evil work and also think that it is contagious. So, people avoid the affected person. Besides, the arsenic contaminated zone would be isolated area. Because most rural areas are affected by arsenic. In rural area, most people are ignorance and illiterate. They have no knowledge about arsenic contamination. On the other hand, it is the new threat for our country. Thus, arsenic contamination in ground water and its affection are almost unknown for our rural people.
In our country, we have scarce of fresh drinking water. Once we could drink ground water as safe water, but now it was also affected. Ground water withdrawal was affordable for us. Now we have to look other source of drinking water. But other source is not available all over the country. Therefore, many are fallen in deep crisis for fresh water.
Besides, we are not technologically advance country. Water management system needs technological advancement. Because, for filtering water and testing water need high technological support. Besides, for supplying water, it also needs technology. Although our urban people get few advantages for getting fresh water. But rural people are getting nothing. If the area were affected with arsenic contamination, then the situation would be worse.        
The selected study area “Pillakhandi” fell in this situation. This area was arsenic affected which was detected by DPHE in 2002. They sealed the contaminated tube wells as red color. In this area, tube well water was the fresh drinking water. Other sources were not safe. Because the surface water of this area was also highly polluted and this was undrinkable. Unlike surface water, rainwater was seasonable. In the dry season, rainwater was unavailable. Therefore, they get no alternative better source. So, many people drilled a tube well to get safe drinking water. But two years ago they have been informed that the tube well was not also safe. It was contaminated with arsenic. At last they drink polluted surface. That creates different health diseases. Often they drink arsenic contaminated tube well water. In this area, the unaffected tube wells were few and many cannot collect water from those because of distant or social hindrances.
Thus, it is an argent need for them to serve better safe drinking water supply. In this respective, government has a responsibility to serve the alternative safe water management system. 


Arsenic contamination in the selected study area was found by the guidance of DPHE in 2002. They marked the contaminated tube wells and painted the affected and non-affected as respectively red and green. They worked in ten unions in Zakiganj Upazila. They found 16% arsenic contaminated tube well, where Pillarkhandi was the most affected area (source: Bangladesh arsenic mitigation water supply project, DPHE, package no. 3g). But it has to say that this Department just has done few observations to collect contaminated tube wells, do not proceed their work to create awareness. For this, there are given few recommendations for guiding the affected study area “Pillarkhandi.” 


The people of this study area were not too much aware about arsenic contamination. They need proper guidance to inform them that arsenic contaminated water affects the human health. For this, few programs may be taken. Those may be as follows.
To start a program for creating awareness about arsenic contamination in ground water in this study area.
To inform them that this pollution create health problem such as melanosis, keratosis and different kinds of skin diseases.
To know them that arsenic cannot remove from the water, if it is polluted by arsenic.
To create community response about arsenic contamination.
To warn them not to drink arsenic contaminated tube well water.
Government’ Public Health Department have to advocate much for solving arsenic crisis in the study area. Besides, other development organization also can start a program to build public awareness.


In the selected study area, tube well water was the main source of safe drinking water from long ago. Tube well water was not only use for drinking; they also use it for irrigation and household purposes. But now it was detected as arsenic contamination. Thus, people avoid drinking tube well water. In this study, it was observed that there is great crisis for safe drinking water. So, government and related agencies have to establish a water management system for serving pure drinking water. They can take few projects to do that. Those may be as follows.
Setup community tank for villagers.
Develop rainwater-harvesting system as alternative source of drinking water.
Install deep tube well.
Monitoring others non-affected tube wells.

Those are needed for the affected study area immediately. Otherwise, a vast health problem will be occurred because of drinking polluted water. In this area, people were not only affected by the contaminated ground water but also polluted surface water. Because finding no other alternative, they were also drinking polluted surface water, which is the common rural problem. Thus, the researcher thought that it is the humanitarian cause to give few recommendations for responsible authorities.  


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