20 Million in Bangladesh Are Drinking Water Poisoned With Arsenic

Source: AP
Source: AP

Around 20 million people in Bangladesh are drinking water with dangerously high levels of arsenic, and very little is being done to amend this situation, according to a Human Rights Watch report published Wednesday.

Development organizations implemented a massive national initiative in Bangladesh between the 1970s and 2000 to drill tube wells. It was a response to the widespread problem of fecal-contaminated water. However, what the development community didn't realize was they were paving the way for a far worse crisis.

Read more: Flint Poisoned This Guy's Water, So He Created a Hack to Make It Drinkable

Source: A.M. Ahad/AP

The ground water there contained tasteless and odorless arsenic, which, at high enough levels, can cause cardiovascular disease, cancer, skin legions and can ultimately lead to death and, in children, cognitive impairment. When the crisis was addressed in 2002, the World Health Organization called it "the largest mass poisoning of a population in history." 

And 14 years later, according to the HRW report, approximately 43,000 people a year are dying in Bangladesh from using the arsenic-tainted water.

After people became aware the water was poisonous, there were some efforts made to mitigate the crisis. "The government, international donors and NGOs installed a few hundred thousand safe water devices — mostly deep tube wells that reach groundwater of better quality," HRW wrote. "Bangladesh also adopted a National Policy for Arsenic Mitigation and an accompanying implementation plan in 2004."

But one of the report's biggest concerns is that efforts have stalled since 2006. 

The crisis is crippling swaths of a generation. The report states that from 2000 to 2030, an estimated 90 million babies will be born in Bangladesh. Of those children, 1 to 5 million are predicted to die from arsenic poisoning. 

"Bangladesh isn't taking basic, obvious steps to get arsenic out of the drinking water of millions of its rural poor," Richard Pearshouse, a researcher for HRW, told the Guardian. "The government acts as though the problem has been mostly solved, but unless the government and Bangladesh's international donors do more, millions of Bangladeshis will die from preventable arsenic-related diseases."

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Natasha Noman

Natasha is a News Staff Writer covering global affairs. She previously reported on regional affairs from Pakistan. Natasha is based in New York and can be reached at natasha@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Kremlin slams White House's warning of potential chemical attack in Syria

The U.S. and Russia continue to spar over Syria.

EU slaps Google with a record 2.42 billion euro fine

The tech giant has a hefty fine in its future.

Detroit judge halts deportation of 1,400 Iraqi nationals living in US

Many of the Iraqis are Chaldean Christians who reportedly voted for Trump.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Travel ban ruling, Health care opposition, Castile family settlement

All the important stories to get you caught up for Tuesday.

White House says it knows of potential Syrian chemical attack, warns Assad of "heavy price"

The Trump administration did not provide any evidence backing the threat.

In tweets, Serena Williams shuts down John McEnroe's sexist comments 

Williams said his statements were "not factually based."

Kremlin slams White House's warning of potential chemical attack in Syria

The U.S. and Russia continue to spar over Syria.

EU slaps Google with a record 2.42 billion euro fine

The tech giant has a hefty fine in its future.

Detroit judge halts deportation of 1,400 Iraqi nationals living in US

Many of the Iraqis are Chaldean Christians who reportedly voted for Trump.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Travel ban ruling, Health care opposition, Castile family settlement

All the important stories to get you caught up for Tuesday.

White House says it knows of potential Syrian chemical attack, warns Assad of "heavy price"

The Trump administration did not provide any evidence backing the threat.

In tweets, Serena Williams shuts down John McEnroe's sexist comments 

Williams said his statements were "not factually based."