Analysis: When aid meets arsenic in Nepal

Thailand News Breaking News

Thailand News Breaking News. Image: TN.




PARASI, 27 January 2012 (IRIN) – After the discovery of unsafe levels of arsenic in Nepal’s groundwater more than a decade ago, government officials and aid groups are finally taking a critical look at whether their efforts have made a difference.

“We didn’t raise money for broken filters,” said US-based geologist Linda Smith, expressing frustration during a recent visit to Nawalparasi District in the southern Terai region, one of Nepal’s hardest-hit areas by arsenic-contaminated groundwater, when she came across abandoned water filters.

At one home, two broken cement water filters were being used as planters, while another filter distributed by the NGO she heads, Filters for Families (FFF), sat dismantled in the yard.

At a neighbouring home, parts were missing from a two-bucket filtration system from Bangladesh known as a Sono. The filter stand had been converted to a clothes-drying rack.

Smith retrieved unused filters and reimbursed families for the US$5 they had paid per filter, which has an actual cost of $70.

“There are people who need filters, and they need to realize this,” she said.

Some 2.7 million people in Nepal – nearly 10 percent of the population – are drinking water with arsenic concentrations above the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended 10 parts per billion (ppb), according to 2011 government estimates.

In Nawalparasi District alone, a 2008 government survey of tube wells (shallow wells 14-24m deep controlled by hand pumps) found almost 4,000 wells had arsenic that exceeded national standards (50ppb).

Another 4,418 met national standards, but not the international 10ppb threshold – altogether affecting nearly 140,000 people who depend on those tube wells for drinking water.

Read more: irinnews.org



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