2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 3:35 PM

Technical and Social Feasibility of Deep Tube Wells for Arsenic Free Drinking Water in Bangladesh

RAMMELT, Crelis Ferdinand1, BOES, Jan2, BRUINING, Hans2, AHMED, Kazi Matin3, MASUD, Zahed Mohammad4, MERSON, John Archibald1 and STORMS, Joep2, (1)Environmental Policy and Management, Institute of Environmental Studies, Vallentine Annexe, Rm 133, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia, (2)Delft University of Technology, Delft, 2628 CN, Netherlands, (3)Department of Geology, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, 1000, Bangladesh, (4)Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation, Dhaka, 1207, Bangladesh, crelisr@gmail.com

About ten years ago it was discovered that two-thirds of the Shallow Tube Wells used for supplying drinking water in rural Bangladesh extract groundwater with arsenic concentrations above the permissible levels. The many uncertainties surrounding the arsenic calamity seem to cripple urgently needed mitigation in the affected areas.

The Dutch-Bangladeshi Arsenic Mitigation and Research Foundation (AMRF) started a participatory programme that is being implemented by local partner NGOs in two arsenic-affected districts. Initial activities have focussed on the installation of Deep Tube Wells and on the formation of Community-Based Organisations responsible for the operation and maintenance of the water supplies. Whether this approach provides a sustainable solution depends on a range of technical and social variables.

The technical part of the framework we propose deals with possible mechanisms of arsenic contamination of the deep aquifer. The first mechanism is in situ release and the second is through transferred contamination from elsewhere. Microbial processes play an essential part in the contamination. The social part of this proposal deals with a ‘social' risk assessment of existing and future imbalances in social and institutional arrangements. Local power relations might put at risk participation of the poor, economic restrictions might pose a problem for maintenance of the infrastructure, gender aspects might restrict the mobility of women, etc.

The complexity and uncertainties involved call for an interdisciplinary and adaptive approach. Scientific research should be undertaken in line with local priorities. For this, AMRF will provide practical support to enable technical and social researchers to be in direct dialogue with local participants and to observe/assess the development of the arrangements. In accordance with local priorities, research will bring relevant technical or social insights back into the projects, at the same time stimulating AMRF as a learning organisation that will take the results further into practice.