• Bangladesh is one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in the world.
• Bangladesh suffers from deadly floods, tidal storms, famine and several diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.
• The main problem facing Bangladesh has been the increasing death rate due to water borne diseases such as diarrhea, mainly due to the presence of bacteria in their drinking water.
How did UNICEF respond to the issue of polluted drinking water in Bangladesh?
• In the 1970’s UNICEF initiated a massive tube well project to tap into clean underground water sources.
• There are over 5 million of these wells within Bangladesh. The most popular well used is the Hand Tube well (HTW).
What happened after that?
• In 1993 the “clean” water from tube wells were discovered to contain dangerous levels of arsenic.
• This contamination comes from arsenic rich material in Bangladesh’s river system that has been deposited over thousands of years.
• Testing has displayed that 1.4 million tube wells contain arsenic above the Government drinking water limit of 50 part per billion (ppb).
• UNICEF explains today that “at the time, standard procedures for testing the safety of groundwater did not include tests for arsenic which had never before been found in the kind if geological formations that exist in Bangladesh”.
Which tube wells contained hazardous levels of arsenic?
• Contaminated tube wells are wells that take water from levels of 20-100 meters deep.
• Shallower wells are not contaminated because they contain recent rainwater or water flowing rapidly through the sediment.