Bangladesh, Dhaka: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Yesterday, some 20 million poor Bangladeshis are still drinking water contaminated with arsenic, two decades after the potentially deadly toxin was discovered in the supply. A new report from the rights group said Bangladesh had failed to take the basic steps needed to tackle the problem which kills an estimated 43,000 Bangladeshis every year, mostly in poor rural areas.
The problem dates back to the 1970s, when the Bangladesh government drilled millions of shallow tube wells to provide villagers with clean water — not realising that the soil was heavily laced with naturally occurring arsenic. “Bangladesh isn’t taking basic, obvious steps to get arsenic out of the drinking water of millions of its rural poor,” HRW researcher Richard Pearshouse said.
“The reasons why this huge tragedy has remained so pervasive are due to poor governance.” Bangladesh has been building deep tube wells to source water from beneath the arsenic-tainted soil. But HRW said there was no proper government oversight of the scheme, with politicians earmarking the new wells for their own supporters rather than putting them in the worst-affected areas. “It means the situation is almost as bad as 15 years ago,” said Pearshouse. The UN’s World Health Organisation has called Bangladesh’s arsenic crisis “the largest mass poisoning of a population in history”.