ALTHOUGH periodically we hear of the dreadful statistics about poisonous chemical arsenic polluting much of our groundwater exposing people to different diseases, this serious public health issue remains sidelined .Successive governments have been voluble about it; even tubewells were marked out in arsenic afflicted regions to be avoided. But sustained efforts needed in view of newer areas affected have been missing.This can be explained in two ways:First,the kind of policy intervention needed to cope with the pervasive nature of the problem with effective commitment and logistical support was lacking;secondly, and perhaps equally importantly,awareness has not permeated the grassroots to be sensitized against arsenic risks.
The sheer scale of such water consumption averaging some 25 percent for the country, leaving aside even a higher percentage in certain pockets,underscores the magnitude of the malady. International experts , some NGOs and public health professionals have voiced their concerns from time to time urging pro-active government-community synergies for an all-out preventative, remedial and rehabilitation-related action programme. What else would nudge us into action than the World Health Organisation's warning that in Bangladesh arsenic contamination level was 50ppb(parts per billion) in place of acceptable 10ppb.
Obviously,rampant extraction of groundwater, as the State Minister for Health has emphasized must be stopped and we should get a move on expediting implementation of surface water treatment plants.