Higher, a lot

The Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS) has joined hands with three UN agencies — UN-HABITAT, WHO and UNICEF — to address the problem of arsenic contamination, a type of carcinogenic mineral found mostly in the groundwater that causes cancer in humans. The project relates to drinking water in 20 districts of the Tarai. These international partners have already committed over one million dollars to go into purchasing test kits, supervision, monitoring and information dissemination, supply of arsenic removal filter components, materials for reinstalling wells and for supporting arsenic-affected persons. Over the period of next 18 months, the proposed project aims at conducting blanket tests of around 350,000 wells. This is expected to directly benefit some 3.5 million people in the Tarai.

According to the DWSS findings, currently over one million people in the Tarai may be drinking water with arsenic concentration higher than the WHO guideline value of 10 ppb. Worse, nearly 300,000 people could be using arsenic contaminated water higher than the Nepali Interim Standard of 50 ppb. Thus at a time when the country has not even been able to achieve the 50 ppb standard, which is clearly much higher than the WHO’s 10 ppb value, the new project, hopefully, would help to mitigate the toxic effects of arsenic. But this requires high-level commitment as the success of the project depends on the government’s seriousness in implementing the programme.