UN HABITAT & UNICEF support promotion of arsenic mitigation options in terai districts of Nepal

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The “Arsenic Mitigation Programme" promoted different arsenic mitigation options as the alternatives to arsenic contaminated water in nine arsenic affected Terai Districts of Nepal. Benefitting over 44,706 people it has also decreased the vulnerability of people exposed to arsenic poisoning in these areas. The programme was carried out by Department of Water Supply and Sewerage (DWSS), UNICEF and UN-HABITAT, while the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) facilitated for implementing it at local level. In Nepal, the first case of arsenic contamination was reported in 1999 by DWSS during the arsenic testing conducted with support of WHO in the groundwater of of Terai. Later, UN-HABITAT and with UNICEF supported DWSS in carrying out blanket arsenic testing in groundwater sources of 7 other arsenic affected districts including Jhapa, Morang, Mahottari, Banke, Bardiya, Dang and Chitwan.

The arsenic testing reported over 1 million people living in 20 Terai Districts of Nepal to be vulnerable to arsenic poisoning. They were compelled to drinking water with an arsenic concentration higher than the WHO guideline of 10 ppb. It also estimated that nearly 300,000 people were consuming water with concentration higher than the guideline value provided by Government of Nepal i.e 50ppb. In response to the result of these testing's, the arsenic mitigation programme was launched in Bardiya, Banke, Parsa, Bara, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Saptari, Siraha, Sunsari- the nine highly arsenic affected districts in terai of Nepal to increase accessibility of local people to arsenic free safe drinking water. The programme has oriented thousands of people on arsenic contamination. They have also been sensitized on the arsenic poisoning and its mitigation options. It has conducted focus group discussions at community level, made household visits and organized street drama shows to further augment their knowledge on these issues, which aided to create demand for arsenic mitigation options in these districts. Addressing the developing demand, the programme has distributed around 6000 units of Kanchan Arsenic Filter (KAF) to help people treat arsenic contaminated water at household level. Additionally, it has installed 175 new tube wells at the places with arsenic free aquifer and improved more than 30 existing dug wells in these districts. The programme has also established a demonstration site of Rain Water Harvesting (RWH) System to introduce rainwater as an arsenic free natural source of water and encourage people for adopting this technology. In addition to equipping the local people with safe options to arsenic poisoning, it has trained them on arsenic blanket testing and safe drinking water options. It has generated human resources at local level and empowered local authorities to cope existing arsenic problem independently. Resource persons like teachers, entrepreneurs, health workers, community motivators, local leaders, technicians, and journalist have also been trained and oriented for continuous dissemination of the arsenic issues in their locality. As a result of the project activities, people now have access to safe drinking water.