Arsenic Mitigation Through Community Water Treatment Plants in Meherpur District, Bangladesh Open Access

Mahajan, Anushree Yogesh (2016)

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Exposure to toxic arsenic through the consumption of contaminated groundwater is affecting millions in rural communities of Bangladesh. For over three decades, the disadvantaged rural populations of Bangladesh have been drinking groundwater through millions of tube wells installed by UNICEF in the late 80's in an effort to reduce the disease burden associated with the consumption of fecally-contaminated surface waters. In 1993, arsenic in the water from these tube wells was discovered and up to 11 million tube wells have been tested and marked as safe or unsafe since then. However, these communities continue to drink unsafe tube well water either because there is inadequate availability of alternative drinking water sources or the more immediate impacts of diarrheal disease outweigh the health problems associated with long-term arsenic exposure. Save the Children, Bangladesh has been implementing Water Treatment Plants (WTPs) as an arsenic mitigation option for rural communities that are severely impacted by arsenic contaminated groundwater in Meherpur District since 2009. This WTP, developed and designed by a local company, Sidko Limited, uses a granular ferric hydroxide (GFH) media to adsorb arsenic out of groundwater collected from deep aquifers. The effectiveness of the GFH media in removing arsenic from aqueous solutions has been widely studied in lab experiments, however, its applications for use in a filter for arsenic mitigation have not been investigated. This thesis summarizes an investigation of the use of the Sidko WTP as an arsenic mitigation option for rural communities in Bangladesh. It also compares the WTP intervention to other arsenic mitigation options that are commonly used in Bangladesh and extensively cited in the literature. Process documentation research was conducted to examine how this intervention is implemented in communities of Meherpur by Save the Children. Qualitative data on community perceptions of the WTP and the water that it provides was also collected through interviews and focus group discussions with community members of four communities that have received the intervention. The cost, sustainability, and implications for future scale-up of the WTP intervention are also discussed.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction. 1

2. Background. 4

2.1 Bangladesh and Arsenic Contaminated Groundwater. 4

2.2 Reasons for Arsenic Contamination of Groundwater. 5

2.3 Climate Change and Groundwater Arsenic. 7

2.4 Health Impacts of Arsenic Poisoning. 7

2.5 Economic Implications of Population Arsenic Exposure. 9

3. Arsenic Mitigation in Bangladesh. 10

3.1 UNICEF's Mitigation Strategy. 10

3.2 Other Mitigation Efforts. 11

3.3 Arsenic Mitigation Strategies. 11

3.4 Risk Substitution of Arsenic Mitigation Strategies. 14

3.5 Arsenic Removal Technologies. 14

3.6 Household Options for Arsenic Mitigation. 16

3.6.1 SONO (Three-Kolshi) Filter. 16

3.6.2 Activated Alumina Filter (ALCAN Filter). 17

3.6.3 PUR Sachets. 18

3.7 Difficulty of Household Arsenic Mitigation Options. 19

4. Save the Children. 21

4.1 Save the Children in Bangladesh. 21

4.2 Community Water Treatment Plants. 22

4.3 The Sidko WTP: Design and Arsenic Removal Technology. 24

4.4 Why Did SC Choose the WTP Intervention?. 27

4.5 Process Documentation Research. 29

5. Materials and Methods. 31

5.1 Study Design. 31

5.2 Tool Development 32

5.3 Consent and IRB. 35

5.4 Data Collection. 36

5.5 Communities Visited. 37

5.6 Data Handling and Analysis. 38

6. Results. 39

6.1 Implementation of the WTP Intervention by SC. 39

6.1.1 Pre-installation of the WTP. 39

6.1.2 Installation of the WTP. 41

6.1.3 Post-installation and Maintenance of WTP. 42

6.2 SC's Current Involvement in the WTP Intervention. 44

6.3 Structured Observations of WTPs Visited. 45

6.4 Financial Considerations of the WTP Intervention. 45

6.5 Community Perceptions of the WTP. 47

6.6 Potential Barriers to Using the WTP. 47

6.7 Challenges with the WTP Intervention. 48

6.8 Sustainability of the WTP Intervention. 49

7. Discussion. 52

7.1 Overview of Results. 52

7.2 Early Stages of the WTP Intervention. 52

7.3 Gender Roles and Community Perceptions of the WTP. 53

7.4 Electricity Issues with the WTP. 54

7.5 Other Challenges with the WTP. 55

7.6 Willingness to Pay. 56

7.7 Sustainability. 57

7.8 Water Testing. 58

7.9 Comparison of WTP to Other Common Intervention Options. 59

8. Conclusion. 62

8.1 Further Research. 63

9. Limitations and Reflection on Methods. 65

10. Recommendations to Improve SCs WTP Intervention. 68

References. 70


Appendix A. 78

Appendix B. 80

Appendix C. 84

Appendix D.. 86

Appendix E. 92

Appendix F. 97

Appendix G. 102

Appendix I. 112

Appendix J. 116

Appendix K. 120

Appendix L. 122

Appendix M. 123

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