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PERCEPTION OF WATER AND HEALTH IN THE CONTEXT OF ARSENIC CONTAMINATION IN MATLAB, BANGLADESH

IWRA World Water Congress 2003 Madrid Spain
IWRA WWC2003 - default topic
Author(s): Sma HANIFI
Shamim Ara BEGUM
Abbas BHUIYA
Mahfuzar RAHMAN
Lars åke PERSSON

Sma HANIFI 1, Shamim Ara BEGUM 2, Abbas BHUIYA 3, Mahfuzar RAHMAN 4, Lars åke PERSSON 5

1 Research Officer, Social and Behavioural Sciences Unit, ICDDR,B, GPO Box 128, Dhaka, Bangladesh
2 Research Economist, Research and Evaluation Division, BRAC, 75 Mohakhali, Dhaka 1212, Bangladesh
3 Senior Social Scientist, Social and Behavioural Sciences Unit, ICDDR,B, GPO Box 128, Dhaka, Bangladesh
4 Environmental Epidemiologist, Public Health Sciences Division, ICDDR,B, GPO Box 128, Dhaka, Bangladesh
5 Associate Director, Public Health Sciences Division, ICDDR,B, GPO Box 128, Dhaka, Bangladesh



Keyword(s): Bangladesh, Arsenic, Perception, Water, Health
Article:

Abstract

Objective: Understand the villagers’ perception of drinking water quality and taste in relation to arsenic contamination and health.

Methodology: An ethnographic study including eight focus group discussions, nine in-depth interviews, timeline, and observational techniques were applied to collect information during August 2001 - May 2002 in two villages of Matlab, Bangladesh.

Results: Tube-wells became the main source of drinking water after shifting from surface water in the early 1980s in the study villages. Villagers perceived that tube-well water possesses iron and is tasteful; canal or river water is iron and arsenic free but germ contaminated; pond water is muddy, greenish, and unpleasant to drink. Canal or pond water is mainly used for cooking and washing. Housewives make the decision regarding source and use of water. The young and literate villagers reported that tube-well water now possesses arsenic and causes blackening of skin and hardening of palms and soles. The old and illiterate people reported that tube-well water causes arthritis. Some villagers perceived that boiling or filtering or using water- purifying tablet removes arsenic from water. Several women reported that arsenic contaminated water smells like kerosene. Some villagers are planning to install deep-drilled tube-well as they are perceived to provide arsenic free water. Most of the key informants reported that they would not believe the harmful consequence of drinking arsenic contaminated water without seeing any arsenic patient.

Conclusion: Awareness among the villagers about arsenic contamination and its consequences should be raised on an urgent basis.

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