Arsenic contamination of drinking water is a global problem and was observed in different parts of the world. Ground water has been used as a source of safe drinking in the rural communities of Bangladesh for the past few years. Consequently, the safe source of drinking water has become very unsafe because of arsenic. Many people who are drinking this contaminated water are not aware of its consequences. It was predicted that there are some two million cases of skin lesions in the country caused from drinking arsenic contaminated water, and many people are dieing every year in Bangladesh from arsenic-related illnesses.
“One day we will die. So there is no problem, if we consume arsenic contaminated water.” This is the attitude of the people who come from arsenic affected areas. So, in order to eradicate the problem, the next generation was chosen as a medium to divulge proper knowledge on arsenic and its effects on health from chronic arsenic exposure. Morjor-A-Morshed, a University student, was an active participant of the fifth UNESCO Youth Peace Ambassador (YPA5) Training Workshop where Monjur developed an action plan under the YPA5 programme, as shown on the UNESCO Bangkok website, on ‘Building Peace by Creating Awareness on Arsenic Contamination’. The goals of this action plan were to make people aware about the consequences of arsenic consumption involving the youth in community service and volunteerism.
UNESCO Bangkok didn’t fund the action plan of the Ambassador. So he has to rely on cooperation of Belfry Activists for Nations Development and Human Unison (BANDHU) to implement the workshop event based on the action plan. BANDHU is a charitable youth organisation, which consists of students from various backgrounds and understandings with the unified aim of providing support for the awareness of earth’s degrading environment and providing educational support for children and their rights.
Without ample safe drinking water, communities cannot be healthy. For a developing country like Bangladesh, where majority of the people live below the poverty line in the rural area, the provision of safe drinking water is one of the prior conditions for overall social development. So to avoid the arsenic crisis, arsenic contaminated water should not be taken. This workshop involves reaching out to people and making them aware of the adverse effects of using or consuming arsenic contaminated ground water and what can be done to avoid the problems attached to the issue. This is achieved by conducting workshops and counseling people against the consumption of arsenic contaminated water.
The two day workshop was held in Munshigonj, Comilla and Feni districts. Around 15 students were in the organising team, 33 college students and senior students were trained volunteers and 450 school level students were selected as participants. On the first day, a few high school and college students had been selected to be trained in order to assist in conducting the workshop. They were selected from Feni College, Feni; Zia Mohila College, Feni; Holodia High School, Munshigonj and Laksham College, Comilla.
BANDHU team informed them about arsenic and its consequences, and then taught them how to conduct presentations and workshop. After that they were trained, they were separated into different groups so that they could work as teams. And in future they would disseminate information in a proper way about arsenic related issues. They suggested for alternative water options like the dug well, pond sand filter, rainwater harvester and the deep tube-well.
On the second day, BANDHU team and the newly trained young students headed to different schools such as, Haldia High School, Munshigonj; Laksham Pilot Girls’ High School, Comilla and Sobura Khatun Islamia, Sonagazi schools to conduct the workshops with the children regarding what arsenic is and the harms associated with it.
The students have helped with painting the wells after the specialist was done inspecting the tube-well. They painted the arsenic contaminated tube-well ‘red’ and the safe tube-well ‘green’. Finally the task was finished by building filters by the students and trained volunteers.
Most of the people in our rural areas are very poor. They don’t get adequate nutritients due to high cost of food. Arsenic affected people need not only medicine but also sufficient nutritious food. So the water supply system should be installed to make arsenic safe water availale and all concerned people should impart in the managerial and finacial responsibilities to remove the arsenic problem. Raising awareness to the masses regarding the importance of safe drinking water through communication and education is a prerequisite in this regard.