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Arsenic filters from BESUS - An article from IE - Wednesday, October 19, 2005 at 17:31


Arsenic filters to work with community participation
Suchetana Haldar

Kolkata, October 19: The civil engineering department of Shibpur BE College has successfully developed an arsenic filter model to fight the arsenic menace in the affected regions of Nadia, Murshidabad, 24-Parganas(North and South) and other affected districts of West Bengal. The filters have already been installed in some areas and they are said to be working fine.

With over five million people in nine districts drinking arsenic-contaminated water, rural West Bengal appears to be a worst-case scenario of arsenic poisoning. The effects of arsenic poisoning manifests itself in the form of skin cancer and a multitude of diseases ultimately leading to death. According to various health reports the only effective preventive measure is to ensure a supply of drinking water which is low in arsenic concentration.

The first fruitful effort, was the installation of two Amal arsenic filters in Gobardanga and Bashirhat, way back in 1996 with fundings from, Water for People, an American NGO.

But, the most noteworthy initiative, is the ARPROBEC (arsenic project of BE college) community filter, conceived by Prof. Pratip Banerjee of environmental engineering branch of the civil engineering department.

The USP of the filter is its sustainability and easy maintenance. It uses the “stage-filtration” technique for the step-by-step removal of iron and arsenic, the latter is removed using layers of activated alumina.

Installed in 18 villages of Maldah district and five villages of Murshidabad district, Banerjee claimed that the effectiveness of the filter lies in the active participation of the village community in its installation and maintenance.

Moreover, Banerjee has taken it upon himself to personally look into the problems faced by the communities regarding the arsenic-filter. Each month, he goes for field trips to monitor the working of his installations. His grassroot level interactions with the rural folk has definitely paid-off with arsenic mitigation committees being set up in many villages, to look into the maintenance aspect of the filter.

Every family in the community has to make a monthly contribution of Rs 10 towards the filter fund. A family card is issued and the villagers adhere to specific timings to have access to the filters.

“Most of the past and current endeavours, by individuals and institutions alike , have failed inspite of using fool-proof technologies.This is due to the lack of awareness about the utility and functioning of the installations. An extensive groundwork with the village community is a must,” stressed Banerjee.

The man behind the project confessed that initially it had been difficult convincing villagers about his intentions.” They suspected me of having an ulterior motive,” he said.

Today, it is a different story. Some of the rural folk are more aware and have realised the importance of safe drinking water. With the informed lot stepping forward with funds, to set up arsenic filtration units in their villages and with individuals and private organisations chipping in with finances, things have taken a turn for the better.

Comments by Readers
Comments by Well wisher from India on Thursday, October 20, 2005 at 08:28 - IP Logged
Happy to see some effort to stem the menace of such a magnitude. Very cautious approach is needed with dedication. Unfortunately we have seen enough of gimmices by one Dipankar Chakravorty for last 10-15 years with no result. It was more of a propaganda than a scientific pursuit. Let us see a good job done this time for the benefit of mankind


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