delware environmental institute

The search for safe water in Bangladesh

The search for safe water in Bangladesh

On the streets of Dhaka, horns honk as a sea of motorists in cars and buses, on motorbikes and rickshaws, surges forward. Women in saris the color of mangoes and bright yellow jackfruit walk along the road beside men wearing loose-fitting shirts called kurtas. The spicy aroma of cooking chili peppers and ginger wafts from the restaurants and canteens.

Dhaka, with over 16 million residents, is the vibrant capital of Bangladesh. This nation of magnitudes, named after the Bengal tribe that inhabited it 3,000 years ago, has one of the longest beaches, largest mangrove forests and highest populations in the world. Bangladesh currently ranks as the seventh most populous country on the planet, with an estimated 160 million people crowded into an area the size of Iowa.

A health calamity of almost unimaginable proportions has been brewing in Bangladesh and elsewhere in southern Asia — in parts of India, Vietnam and Cambodia. An estimated 100 million people are being exposed to unsafe levels of arsenic in their drinking water. The World Health Organization has called the situation in Bangladesh “the largest mass poisoning of a population in history.”