In the late 1990s, naturally occurring arsenic was discovered in shallow groundwater in Bangladesh, which is the source of domestic water needs for 97% of the population. Between 35 and 77 million users are now exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic. Arsenic is chronically toxic after prolonged low-level exposure and can lead to cancers and neurological disorders. Unfortunately, development agencies have had little success resolving the problem. Most of the delivered water supplies did not benefit the poor, and many of the installed water supplies were not maintained and eventually abandoned.
What should be done?
The complex character of the arsenic problem requires a programme that links interdisciplinary research with project implementation in a manner that reflects the priorities of local communities. Our objectives are: (1) to mitigate the arsenic contamination in several highly affected and marginalised communities, and (2) to effectively learn from these experiences and develop innovative methods that are replicable and capable of producing multiplier effects in the country.
In 2000, we established the Arsenic Mitigation & Research Foundation (AMRF) in response to the arsenic crisis currently occurring in Bangladesh. This is a joint effort between researchers and practitioners from local Non-Governmental Organisations.
The arsenic problem
In the last four decades, more than 97% of the rural population have been provided with access to groundwater for their domestic needs. The recently discovered naturally occurring arsenic in shallow groundwater invalidates much of this success. Two-thirds of the shallow tube-wells turn out to extract water with concentrations of arsenic above the permissible levels set by the World Health Organisation.
These wells were installed to provide a safe and reliable alternative to irregular and polluted surface water sources. Instead, between 35 and 77 million users are now exposed to dangerous levels of arsenic. Arsenic is chronically toxic after prolonged low-level exposure and can lead to various cancers and neurological disorders. Given their poor nutrition and generally low health status, the poisoning has more severe consequences for the poor.
Unfortunately, development agencies have had little success resolving the arsenic problem. First, most of the delivered water supplies did not benefit the poor. One villager mentions: “In theory, we decided upon the placement of the water supply. In practice, it was the union chairman who installed it at the house of a friend”. This injustice is compounded by development organisations and funding agencies in a rush to install a predetermined number of water supplies. Second, many of the installed water supplies were not maintained and eventually abandoned. This happens because some of the ‘solutions’ are either too sophisticated as a first technical step or simply socially inappropriate.
Water supplies installed under the National Policy for Arsenic Mitigation (NPAM) are said to have reached less than 14% of the population at risk. If that wasn’t bad enough, the number of people still exposed to arsenic is probably much higher because the supplies are in reality not community-based; or because they have broken down within a year or so after their installation. The lesson is that if implemented improperly 30 deep tube wells will only serve 30 well-to-do families; if done properly 3 deep tube wells may serve 300 poor families.
Vision of AMRF is to develop quality of living in rural Bangladesh by community mobilization.
Mission of AMRF is the mitigation of Arsenic contamination of water and bring Arsenicosis patient into main stream
- To set up a gender-based participation in social mobilization program for realisation of sustainable long-term solutions for safe water, sanitation, personal hygiene in rural Bangladesh.
- To optimise and develop a field level affordable and accessible Arsenic mitigation technology thereby facilitating the role of women as domestic water manager.
- To improve poor sanitation condition of the targeted communities through using hygienic sanitary latrine.
- To raise the awareness level regarding hygienic practice by developing capacity of targeted community to improve water and sanitation condition.
- To sensitise the Policy makers, local government and service agencies to promote sustainable water supply, sanitation and hygiene services.
- To bring Arsenicosis patient under treatment coverage.
To conduct a research on Health impact of Arsenic poisoning in relation to Socio economic condition.
Our programme Strategy
From 2006-2010, we implemented the first phase of the Arsenic Mitigation & Community Participation Program. This was a joint effort between researchers (from Delft University of Technology and University of New South Wales) and practitioners from local Non-Governmental Organisations: Peoples’ Resources In Development Enterprise (PRIDE) and AITAM Welfare Organisation. The aim was to learn about the problem, to develop an approach to implementation of safe drinking water supplies.
Focusing merely on research will not respond to the urgency of the arsenic problem. On the other hand, many uncertainties still hamper the implementation of adequate projects. Should the emphasis be laid upon better understanding of the problem in order to come up with the best possible approach, or should priority be given to address the problem now in order to save lives?
Obviously both should be done, but contrary to technical installations that can be delivered quickly, the process of setting up the necessary village institutions will take more time. Our challenge was therefore to streamline short-term technical and long-term social activities.
Our objectives at the start were:
- To mitigate the arsenic contamination in several highly arsenic-affected and marginalised communities, and
- To effectively learn from these experiences and develop innovative methods those are replicable and capable of producing multiplier effects in the country.
Lessons learned from Phase 1
In our working areas, we found an overwhelming preference for deep tube-wells (and occasionally for dug-wells). These can serve as quick mitigation (it takes only five days to install one); in other words it functions as an end in itself. Deep tube-wells are also a means upon which people can start building and strengthening the necessary community-based organisations.
The first lesson is that if implemented improperly 30 deep tube wells will only serve 30 well-to-do families; if done properly 3 deep tube wells may serve 300 poor families. The second lesson is that shifting to safe water is often not sufficient to detoxify the blood and organs affected by years of gradual poisoning. A safe water supply must go hand in hand with long-term medical support for existing patients. This raises serious doubts about the sustainability of many of today’s efforts.
Furthering our objectives
We are now looking for support for setting up a second phase focusing on nutrition, traditional medicine, food production and other economic activities. Phase 2 will hopefully also strengthen the sustainability of the activities under the first phase.
Since 2006, we have worked closely with over 30 communities for the implementation of safe drinking water supplies and health care systems. Safe water has been secured, but this is not enough to counter the arsenic, health and nutrition become a logical focus in relation to the first programme objective (mitigating arsenic contamination). From the start, we perceive the deep tube-wells as entry points in a lengthier and broader development process. Emphasise further developments in our existing working areas, especially that of people’s organisations.
In relation to the second programme objective, we aim to share our experiences with the implementation approach developed in phase 1. We will engage in lobbying and sharing our experiences at different levels, and disseminate and communicate our findings. As we continue to learn, we aim to refine and strengthen the approach developed in phase 1 by implementing safe drinking water and health systems in geographically new areas (Satkira and chars islands).
Activities for Phase 2
Strengthen existing drinking water supply systems
The second priority mentioned previously is to look at how the new village institutions will cope with changes in the future and possibly adopt new technologies. The deep tube-well maintenance committees will gradually develop into people’s organisations. AMRF’s responsibility will shift towards a monitoring and facilitating role; our direct involvement in setting up water supplies and committees will gradually reduce (as it already has in several villages).
Strengthen existing health care systems
We have already initiated several activities in relation to health care over the past five years (homestead gardening, treatment of arsenicosis, sanitation latrine installation). New activities will include:
Strengthen existing people’s organisations
At this point, the village institutions are still mostly maintenance committees for the deep tube-wells. Although the signals are promising, the committees are not autonomous forces within the community; they still require much facilitation and motivation to take on other responsibilities beyond the maintenance of a water supply. A major aim for a second phase of our programme will therefore be to see these committees develop into more broadly engaged people’s organisations
Lobbying, research and dissemination of results.
Exploring the implementation process in new areas (Satkira and Chars)…
Plan of action
Our programme centre, built in 2009, will help up to be slightly less dependent on financial support. The centre includes an office, guesthouse, resource centre, seminar facility, people’s meeting place, and a place to develop income-generating activities. All this will allow us to become more sustainable and autonomous as an organisation, while at the same time being closer to the people of our working areas in Munshiganj. The second part of 2010 will be used to further strengthen this infrastructure and to start developing the centre as a training institute.
During the second part of 2010, we will explore the possibilities to invest and prepare a demonstration plot near to our programme centre in Munshiganj. This will allow us to organise training and education activities for local NGO-staff on above-mentioned themes.
|Name of Project||Donors/Partners||Status|
|Arsenic Mitigation and Community Participation (AMCP) Phase II||AMRF Netherlands||Ongoing|
|Promoting safe Water and Sanitation access and Hygiene motivation Among Rural poor in Arsenic affected areas of Munshiganj||WaterAid Bangladesh||Ongoing|
Paving the way for fee-based testing of 10 million tubewells for arsenic in Bangladesh
|Joint Research Project of Dhaka University, Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation (AMRF) and Columbia University||Ongoing|
|Mother & Child care hospital||Embassy of Japan||Ongoing|
|Development Initiative to Promote Transforming Young Women (DIPTYWO)||Manusher Jonno Foundation (MJF)||Recently Completed|
Development of community organization of marginalized population– Community strengthening through training for local advocacy and lobbying to local government and other development organization.
- Total 36 CBOs have been formed in the community
- They got training on different issues like; WASH rights, leadership development, community mobilization etc.
Provision of safe drinking water and sanitation
Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation Bangladesh entered in the community with the objective of provision safe water through distribution of Arsenic free tube well (Medium deep) water in the community. The water options are established in the selected poorer communities at risk by base line survey.
- 01 Community pipe water system that covered 375 people
- 28 deep hand tube-well Installation at the community that covered 3494 people
- 65 tube-wells have been renovated at the community for 6098 people
- Inclusive sanitation complex constructed at 4 secondary schools
- More than thousand households have installed/renovated their sanitation facilities through our motivation
Strengthening Community based Training, information dissemination, documentation and research center – A community based resource centre for Information dissemination, Documentation and Research (IDRC) is developed with provision of all eco agricultural, health and nutritional information to upgrading knowledge about organic fertilizer, pesticide and bio gas plant and hazards of chemical fertilizer & other issues. Conducting training to mitigate climate change impacts mainly on agriculture and water management. Conducting Participatory Research activities to develop community based alternative low cost technology through technical assistance for people’s access to safe water and eco-agriculture. Information is disseminated through workshops, meetings, training and respond to individual queries.
Women and child health care – By disseminating knowledge and Awareness development through community based training, health education and health care services for mother and child. This is done through outpatient care center and also community based information centers. This includes Reproductive health e.g., pregnancy care, child birth and care of complications, water and sanitation.
Family based homestead economic initiative
Main purpose is to empower women in the community for their development and facilitate women’s participation in homestead economic activity by educating about social and legal rights and mitigation and protection against violence against women through training, group discussion and interpersonal communication and counseling and also facilitating development of economic initiative by women themselves at homestead lands, whatever the area they have to maximize use of the lands. For—
–The production, like gardening for vegetables and other nutritional vegetation.
— Small farming, mushroom production or small pond for fish culture.
Our Research and Publications in 2015:
- Arsenic and Marginalisation A study of ownership, entitlement and control in arsenic mitigation efforts
- Social impact of arsenicosis disease: A study on arsenicosis patients of Sreenagar and Louhajang upazila under Munshiganj district
Our IEC/BCC material 2015:
Flip chart on arsenic contamination in water and its impact.
Official Mailing Address:
Head Office: Netherlands Office
1053 BB Amsterdam.
Bangladesh Country Office
Shologhar (Bus stand), Sreenagar, Munshiganj
Dhaka Liaison Office
309/2 East Rampura Road, Dhaka- 1219,Bangladesh
Malir anka Bazar, Bejgaon, Louhajong, Munshiganj.
Dr. Fariba Masud
Shologhar (Bus stand), Sreenagar, Munshiganj.
Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation (AMRF) is registered with NGO Affairs Bureau.
Registration no. 1844
Register Institution/Agency: NGO affairs bureau.
Currently there are twenty two staffs:
List of AMRF Staff
|Sl #||Name of Employee||Designation||Mobile #||Office Location|
|01.||Fariba Masud||Executive Director||01912-341700||Rampura, Dhaka|
|02.||Md. Momen Khan||Project Manager||01715-799664||Shologhar-BCO|
|03.||Bipul Chandra Roy||Finance Officer||01620-289260||Shologhar-BCO|
|04.||Mohosin Bhuyan||Monitoring and Documentation Officer||01935735774||Shologhar-BCO|
|05.||Suvas Ch. Sarker||Project Engineer||01914568370||Shologhar-BCO|
|06.||Abu Sayed Md. Atiqur Rahman||Upazila Manager||01716-727175||Louhajong Office|
|07.||Md. Zahangir Alam||Union Supervisor||01712-489591||Shologhar-BCO|
|08.||Md. Nazmul Islam||Community Mobilizer||01684828258||Shologhar-BCO|
|09.||Shuly Akter||Community Mobilizer||01920-464454||Shologhar-BCO|
|10.||Md. Amir Hossain||Community Mobilizer||01765-930437||Shologhar-BCO|
|11.||Md. Akter Hossain||Community Mobilizer||01760-062424||Shologhar-BCO|
|12.||Rozina Khatun||Community Mobilizer||01723-192204||Shologhar-BCO|
|13.||Md. Rafiqul Islam||Community Mobilizer||01721-896687||Shologhar-BCO|
|14.||Shamoly Akter||Community Mobilizer||01985-810924||Louhajong Office|
|15.||Md. Shafiqul Islam||Community Mobilizer||01762-579311||Louhajong Office|
|16.||Remi Akter||Community Mobilizer||01729-676926||Louhajong Office|
|17.||T.M. Belal Hussain||Community Mobilizer||01925-866347||Louhajong Office|
|18.||Minu Akhter||Community Mobilizer||01942-753265||Louhajong Office|
|19.||Md. Rajab Ali||Community Mobilizer||01719-256529||Louhajong Office|
|20.||Md. Akibul Khan||Office Assistant||01754-550444||Shologhar-BCO|