Bangladesh's national policy on arsenic mitigation is likely to be finalised soon. Officials are deliberating on the draft policy before it is sent to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia for her nod. The plan would lay down guidelines on important issues such as provision of arsenic-free water, treatment and rehabilitation of victims as well as research on the presence of arsenic in the food chain.
According to the draft policy, all tubewells and irrigation wells will be monitored regularly and treatment would be made available to patients. Priority would be accorded to surface water sources such as dug wells, ponds and rainwater harvesting structures. Steps would also be taken to ensure that the contaminated water is treated and supplied through pipes.
Emphasis will be laid on preparing a database on the prevalence of arsenicosis in the country. In this regard, research facilities are likely to be strengthened with help from international experts.
When Bangladesh's national water policy was released in 1997, the arsenic problem was not addressed in it. The government, therefore, had to come up with a national policy on arsenic mitigation. Work on this started a couple of years ago, with a national steering committee being formed to outline draft measures. A major reason for the delay was indecision over whether the focus should be on groundwater or surface water.