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| Last Updated:03/04/2014

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Arsenic-affected drinking water hampers settlement

Kathmandu Post, 26 March 2014



PARASI: Almost two decades after the discovery of arsenic, a poisonous metal in water, in groundwater at Kunuwar settlement in Ramgram Municipality-12, Nawalparasi, around 200 households still consume the water.

During 1990s, Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) conducted a test of the only source of drinking water in the settlement after a study found a number of arsenic patients. In 1999, the NRCS provided special filters to the local people in order to control the arsenic but they are not intact now. As per the World Health Organisation standard, it is unhealthy to drink water with arsenic content above 10 microgram per litre.


According to Drinking Water and Sanitation Division Office in Nawalparasi, around 50ppb arsenic is considered drinkable in Nepal. However, there is not a single tube well in the settlement that contains less than 200 ppb arsenic.


The NRCS installed a 200-feet deep tube well at the courtyard of Devraj Sahani, a local resident, but it runs dry. In his other 60-feet deep well the level of arsenic is more than 600 ppb. “We are compelled to use the water risking our lives,” said Sahani.


As per the data available at District Public Health Office, five people died and more than 50 others in the settlement have been suffering from various diseases caused by the arsenic in past two decades.


Keeping in view the problems faced by the people in Kunuwar, the division office and Ramgram Municipality had decided to extend services of Parasi Drinking Water Project to the settlement. Around Rs 1.6 million was spent for the purpose but failed to deliver safe drinking water. The District Development Committee then initiated a deep-boring project some four years ago, however, the project has not yet completed. The locals vent their ire whenever media people and various organisations reach the settlement to inquire about their plight. They complain of various NGOs and foreign organisations coming to the area on pretext of helping them but without any concrete result.


“They come, take photographs and return back assuring to help. But they never return to the settlement again,” said Balkesi Gupta, a 50-year-old local woman having scars of arsenic in her hands and face.


Chief of the division office Ramchandra Kafle said skin diseases, deafness, blindness, cancer, heart diseases and diabetes are linked with exposure to arsenic-contaminated water.