Arsenic contamination in groundwater and consequent human suffering in West Bengal, India was first reported in December 1983 when 63 arsenic patients from 3 villages were identified. At present 3000 villages are arsenic affected. The area and population of these 9 arsenic affected districts of West Bengal are 38865 sq.km and 42.7 million respectively. More than 37% of our population in nine districts of West Bengal are using arsenic contaminated water. As a result, millions of people have already been affected. Arsenic toxicity which initially affects skin also damages lungs, kidney, liver, bladder and many other important organs of human body. Many people of West Bengal died from cancer liver, cancer bladder, cancer lung due to chronic arsenicosis.
Arsenic-related cancer deaths in Murshidabad, West Bengal number in thousands due to the screeching high level of arsenic in drinking water (50-100 times more than WHO permissible level). For the last seven years with the help of Ramakrishna Mission of Sargachi and the Aqua Welfare Society, we have distributed specialized domestic filters to highly affected poor families and constructed special dug wells to provide arsenic-safe drinking water in the village communities in North 24 Parganas, West Bengal.
Here is a short video made by Dr. Sampa Pal on one of her site visits to Jalangi village on arsenic poisoning leading to lesions and cancer related death.
Amrita-Seattle’s safe water program aims to provide arsensic-free drinking water in areas of West Bengal where groundwater is contaminated with very high level of natural Arsenic. Amrita-Seattle has provided free domestic arsenic filters in two districts of West Bengal. Twenty arsenic filters have been distributed to affected families living at extreme poverty in Godagori village in the Jalangi block of Murshidabad under the supervision of Sargachhi RK Mission and our grass root volunteers.
The safe water program aims to provide arsensic-free drinking water in areas of West Bengal where ground water is contaminated with very high level of natural arsenic. Arsenic related cancer deaths are prevalent in Murshidabad and adjoining districts.
Amrita-Seattle has installed two bore dugwells: (1) one dugwell was installed in Tangra village of Chakdaha block in Nadia district, West Bengal, the second (2) was installed in the HashiRashi school in Gaighata village of Nadia district by establishing an effective collaboration with (a) Project Well (California, USA) and its sister NGO “Aqua Welfare Society” based near Kolkata, and (b) Sargachi RK Mission, Murshidabad. Presently, about 65 resident families are regularly being provided with arsenic free drinking water through each bore dugwell for their daily needs.
Amrita-Seattle organizes programs for promoting awareness of the dangers of arsenic in drinking water and how that danger can be mitigated. This project is ongoing in Sargachi (Murshidabad) & Chakdaha (Nadia), in collaboration with Project Well, Aqua Welfare Society, and Sargachi RKM. Such interactive programs are well attended by villagers who are affected by arsenic poisoning.
Murshidabad and Sargachi, some of the very poorest tribal areas of West Bengal, has a long history of water scarcity. Every year in summer in Murshidabad village women walk long distances with earthen pots and pitchers looking for water. There are several factors which are mainly responsible for the water scarcity. Recently the gap between demand and supply of water is widening day by day due to rapid growth of population. Both physical and economic water scarcity are observed in this region. Physical water scarcity is inadequate water resources to meet a country’s or regional demand, including the water needed to fulfil the demand of ecosystems to function effectively (UNDP,2006). Arid regions frequently suffer from physical water scarcity. Economic water scarcity is caused by a lack of investment in infrastructure or technology to draw water from rivers, aquifers or other water sources, or insufficient human capacity to satisfy the demand for water.
Amrita-Seattle has partnered with the Ramakrishna Mission of Sargachi to install multiple deep tube well hand-pumps in this area to provide clean drinking water for the locals during frequent drought periods. Deep tube wells are also effective in eliminating bacteria.