Why do people die in arsenic poisoning?
By Vinay Chand
The contamination of wells with arsenic is one of the greatest environmental disasters being faced today and must rank as one of the worst in recent times. At the request of contacts in West Bengal I researched the matter and found a technology that can get rid of all traces of arsenic. Since then I have tried to mobilise public opinion to find finance for implementation and have also talked to the West Bengal Government, people and authorities in Bangladesh, US AID, UNICEF, DIFID, SIDA and other aid donors.
My own estimate is that one person is dying every 15 minutes and millions are suffering in illness. But very few politicians and bureaucrats live in the affected villages and the people dying are considered to be of no consequence.
Worse still, the token efforts of the World Bank and other aid agencies has added obstacles to solving the problem. If the captain of the Titanic broadcast a May Day message, most of these people would have commissioned studies on iceberg flows and common sense home spun ways of avoiding icebergs rather than sending ships to take the passengers off.
My conclusion is that
- the problem is chronic,
- the contamination is irreversible and worsening,
- no other safe water sources can substitute the wells,
- aid agencies helped produce the problem due to lack of care about environmental impact,
- and are today full of ill considered patronising solutions,
- the solution must fit village culture, be robust and be commercially sustainable,
- technology exists to solve the problem but it will cost a lot,
- no one cares sufficiently since its is all theoretical for them.
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