Drinking water safely - addressing the arsenic menace in Bangladesh

Australian Red Cross (ARC) | Jenni Lillingston from Australian Red Cross (ARC), on 11/10/2017 19:03 AEST

Hosne Ara is a housewife and mother of two living in the Tebaria village, Bangladesh. Her community commonly faces difficulties when trying to access safe drinking water as the ground water and tube-wells are contaminated with arsenic and iron. As a result, villagers have suffered diarrhoea and vomiting. Long-term consumption of arsenic causes skin and liver diseases, nervous system complications and digestive difficulties.

Last year, under the Community Development Initiative 2 WASH project, funded through CS-WASH, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BRCS) promoted a local technology the ‘SONO filter’ which reduces the rate of arsenic and excessive iron from water to an acceptable level.

The SONO filtration system is suitable for rural use as it does not require any energy input, is reliable, and can be produced and maintained at a very low cost with locally available materials. As part of the CDI II WASH commitment to safe water, households were informed about the health issues associated with the local water and given opportunities to test the water before and after filtration.  As a result 500 partially subsidized filters were distributed among beneficiaries and have been implemented into their households.

BDRCS trained the Community Disaster Response Team (CDRT) to raise awareness, conduct arsenic and iron testing and assist locals in the instillation and ongoing maintenance of the technology. “The CDRT are doing admirable work in promoting safe water to the community. As most of the families do not know how to install the filter they have assisted them and are teaching them how to maintain it. I am grateful to them for helping me” said Hosne Ara.

Hosne Ara’s uncle, who has also benefited from the new technology, added, “Earlier, we always felt pain in our stomach. But within a few days of using the purifier, we feel the changes in our bodies. Now I understand those diseases are associated with drinking water that’s contaminated with excessive arsenic and iron.” Hosne Ara’s family enjoys better health, and are more productive than before. Her husband can work extra hours and her children never miss school. Hosne Ara explained “For me it’s very satisfying and I am advocating with my neighbours to get an arsenic filter, so that they too can enjoy better health.”

Prepared by Mr Talha Tasnim, Mr Biplob Kanti Mondal and Ms Jenni Lillingston