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Arsenic Contamination of Groundwater in South and East Asian Countries


Read the reportTowards a More Effective Operational Response

April 2005

The World Bank and Water and Sanitation Program have recently completed and launched their report Arsenic Contamination of Groundwater in South and East Asia: Towards a More Operational Response. It is the first comprehensive international study that examines operational responses to the issue of naturally occurring arsenic in groundwater of Asian countries.

>>> view powerpoint presentation of the Arsenic study launch  (1,063kb pdf)

>>>read an overview on the issue (1mb pdf) 

>>>read the full report


The water supply sector has a specific role to play in arsenic mitigation. An important lesson learned over recent years has been that arsenic cannot be treated as an isolated issue, with distinct programs and approaches, but it has to be integrated into broader water supply sector policies and approaches.

In practice, this would imply:

• Routine arsenic testing in planned water supply interventions in those areas where arsenic is likely to occur (there is sufficient information now about geohydrology in the region to roughly predict
which areas are at risk),

• Application of well-known demand-based techniques to solicit from communities what type of arsenic mitigation measures they would prefer (the water supply sector has moved away from the “top-down approach” to development and, for the sake of effectiveness and sustainability, the same move is needed in dealing with the arsenic challenge).

Signs of Arsenicosis: spots
on the hands

The solutions will take into account country and locality-specific characteristics and thus the approaches will vary. A range of tested options exist, from simple well-sharing in early phases, to provision of piped village water supply and to treatment of affected wells. The study outlines these options, and also analyzes them in economic, financial and social terms.

In summary, the study, which has drawn on information provided by a range of organizations – from governments to NGOs, donors, and academia to the World Bank’s own operations – shows that there is now enough information to act, and that actors should not be deterred by the complexity of the arsenic issue which is inevitably marked by a certain degree of uncertainty.

Much still remains to be done, however. The responses to arsenic contamination have so far lacked cohesion, both at national and global levels, and the problem needs to be addressed in a much more integrated and strategic manner. March 22nd marked the beginning of the UN Water for Life Decade and a more strategic approach to scaling up arsenic mitigation efforts would naturally be part of the Decade’s goals.
Global Arsenic Occurrence

Arsenic Occurrence in Asia 

Study: Arsenic Contamination of Groundwater in South and East Asian Countries

Volume I: Policy Report
Full Report (1,038kb pdf)

Volume II: Technical Report
Full Report  (2,879kb pdf)


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