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(2011-02-09 10:52:19)


Bangladesh was once a country blessed with 250 beautiful rivers dotting its landscape. Now, it is one of the world’s most water-scarce countries. Many of its rivers have dried up, the rest are heavily polluted. The country suffers the highest rates of waterborne diseases in the world.  To make the matters worse, its underground water was found to have naturally occurring arsenic 5 times the maximum recommended by the United Nations.



Once the lifeline of a city, the Buriganga flows through the Capital of Dhaka, providing drinking, fishing and transportation for 12 million people is now filled with industrial and human waste. It has turned into a “Septic Tank” and the river surface has become a black gel. Its odor is so offensive that water recreation becomes impossible.  Many of the rivers in Bangladesh suffer similar fate. Most are polluted from dumping and many have dried up due to encroachment. 



The Buriganga has become a dumping ground of all kinds of solid, liquid and chemical wastes from the local tanneries, farmers and chemical companies. It is estimated that up to 18,500 cubic meters of liquid wastes, 19,000 kilograms of solid wastes and 17,600 kilograms of biological wastes go into the Buriganga each day. The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority confirmed that large quantities of discarded polythene deposits are found near Sadarghat. Chemicals such as cadmium and chromium, and mercury carried by the industrial waste are creeping into the ground water near the river.



During the months (November to April) of the dry season, the level of pollution is so high that no aquatic species can survive in it and the situation is getting worse. Tests found the level of dissolved oxygen within 0.6 to 1.8 mg/l and zero at other points. For aquatic lives to survived, the level of oxygen has to be more than 5 mg/l.

达卡的干季(每年11月到下一年4月),河水的污染度最高,水生物无法生存,情况也日益加重。这个季节的水含氧率只有0.6 到 1.8 mg/l,有的地方为零。生物生存必备5 mg/l以上的含氧度。


The authorities are fully aware of the dumping and encroachment activities carried out on the Buriganga River. Bangladesh government enacted a law in 1995 making it compulsory for all industries to use effluent treatment plants to save river waters from pollution, but industry owners often flout the rule or bribe local politicians to avoid using the plant.



Because of the surface water pollution, Bangladesh government began to propose using underground water sources for its population. They dug wells in the villages and established ground water access for the villagers. However, after began using ground water, villagers in Jampukkur, first in the 1970s noticed dark spots spread across their bodies. Not until 1993, they learned that they were drinking arsenic contaminated water. Official tests showed 95% of the village wells were contaminated.



Arsenic is a natural substance in the pyrite bedrock underlying most of the ground area in West Bengal. It accumulates in the body resulting in nails rotting, dark spots, bleeding sores, swelling, large warts and a form of gangrene. It increases the risk of skin cancer and tumors of the bladder, kidney, liver and lungs. It is a slow killer.



Various studies have been conducted to find a solution and several mitigation projects have been conducted with various results. In many cases the mitigation options provided have failed in terms of sustainability, there is an impatient drive to find the solution that can solve the problem permanently. The illness can take years to diagnose, doctors warn that in 10 years it could reach epidemic proportions, perhaps even more urgent and dire even than the AIDS crisis in Africa.



The British Geological Survey, which conducted research on behalf of the Bangladesh government in 1992, is accused of not testing for arsenic and giving the ground water a clean bill of health, even in places where arsenic was present at as much as 50 times the United Nations maximum. In its own defense, the BGS argues that, at the time of its report, little was known about the geological origins of arsenic poisoning.



As a result of widespread water contamination domestic abuse has become just one of the social costs. There are now many reports of broken marriages, as husbands send disfigured wives back to their parents. In Jampukkur, many young men and women don’t get married at all. Some people think the poison can be passed on from parent to child so many arsenic poisoned women have problems finding husbands.



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