World Water Day Today

Groundwater arsenic threat still there

Staff Correspondent

21st March, 2019 11:27:34 printer

Bangladesh is observing the World Water Day 2019 on Friday like elsewhere in the world to boost awareness and measures to ensure safe water for all.

The theme for this year’s World Water Day is ‘Leaving no one behind’. This is an adaptation of the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDG).

SDG 6 aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030.

The country is observing the day at a time when many people, including women and children, are hard hit by arsenic and other contamination of water, putting their lives in great danger.

In 2010, the UN recognised the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.

The human right to water entitles everyone, without discrimination, to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use;

which includes water for drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, and personal and household hygiene.

Safe water means ‘safely managed drinking water service’—water that is accessible on the premises, available when needed, and free from contamination.

Experts say that underground water in almost all parts of the country contains arsenic and heavy metals which are detrimental to human health.

Arsenic is so poisonous that crops produced in the affected lands are not immune to its contamination. Every day, hundreds of thousands of people consume poisonous water due to poverty, lack of awareness and inadequate steps of the government. 

Dr Muhammad Abdus Sabur, a health expert, earlier told daily sun that arsenic is a poison and arsenic contaminated water can cause arsenicosis in human body.

Raindrop syndrome occurs in the skin of an arsenic water user at the initial stage, leading to infection and cancer, said Sabur, a former UNDP health advisor.

Prof Amir Hossain Khan, chief scientist of Plasma plus Application and Research Laboratory, said surface water is extremely precious as the groundwater is depleting consistently.

Unfortunately, the surface water is being polluted due to excessive use of nitrogen and phosphate fertiliser, he said.

Organic contaminants, pesticides and heavy metals from industrial and domestic solid and liquid wastes cannot be treated with traditional chlorination and disinfection processes, he opined.

He made the statements at a seminar titled “Pollution Profile of Major Rivers around Dhaka” jointly organised by private scientific research laboratory Plasma Plus and non-government organisation Brotee at CIRDAP in 2016. Presently, less than a quarter of Dhaka’s daily demand for 25 million litres of water is met from surface water sources, sources said.

Sayedabad Water Treatment Plant is in trouble for treating water of the Shitalakhkhya which is contaminated with excessive ammonia. Use of huge nitrogen and phosphate fertiliser was polluting the surface water.

Experts opine that organic contaminants, pesticides and heavy metals from industrial and domestic solid and liquid waste cannot be treated with traditional chlorination and disinfection processes.

Prof Amir said dissolved oxygen level, an indicator of river health and aquatic life, goes below three parts per million (ppm) in the river water during the dry season, which should never happen as per US regulations.

The shortage of safe water may be intensified during the upcoming summer season putting people in danger. People of all ages, especially children are exposed to diarrhoea and cholera by drinking dirty water and eating foods cooked by it. As toxic and contaminated water cannot be treated in the traditional disinfecting process, people should use water purifiers.

NGO Forum for Public Health claims the presence of heavy metal manganese in most of the tube wells in the country.  WHO says manganese is detrimental to the human body and underground water is not worthy of drinking due to heavy metal.

Water contaminated with toxic chemicals, heavy metal, nickel and lead cannot be purified by boiling. Water needs to be boiled for at least 30 to 40 minutes to kill the harmful agents. It is difficult for people to boil water properly. Mere boiling of water is not enough to nullify the risk. Excessively boiled water can be harmful to the human body. So, health experts suggest people drink and use water after disinfecting it with the help of good water purifier.