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Arsenic-safe water for local communities in West Bengal, India: A technological issue or a management challenge?
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Land and Water Resources Engineering, Water Management.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-6166-4992
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Land and Water Resources Engineering, Environmental Geochemistry and Ecotechnology.
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Land and Water Resources Engineering, Environmental Geochemistry and Ecotechnology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4350-9950
2006 (English)Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In recent years, the arsenic menace has come to threaten the lives of several millions in a number of states in India. Of these, the earliest to be reported and perhaps the worst to be affected are the populace living in the state of West Bengal. Until the middle of the 90s, the concern was with developing appropriate ‘hardware’ that can supply arsenic-safe water to the affected communities. By the second half of the 90s, a number of technological options were developed, promising to supply water containing arsenic well below the permissible limit set by the WHO. These various technologies can be conveniently clubbed under the rubric ‘arsenic removal plants’ (ARPs). Other alternatives lately promoted as safe water sources include deep tubewells, treated surface water supply through pipelines and rainwater harvesting. While each of these alternatives has its own strengths and weaknesses within the technological framework, this presentation argues that a common challenge facing them and the users is their management. While the government had commissioned evaluative studies of the ARP technologies quite early, an understanding of the management issues underlying their sustainability and adoption is yet to be developed.

Based on detailed first hand observations made in a sample of 45 villages in the state, the presentation outlines the major ‘software’ issues confronting the adoption, access, maintenance and sustainability of the different technology options introduced in the local communities of West Bengal for supplying arsenic-safe water. It argued that neglect of the software dimension of the problem has resulted in inadequate attention to interventions that should have otherwise constituted critical components in the arsenic mitigation programmes designed and executed by different agencies in the state – namely, government, non-governmental organizations and international development agencies. The core of the software dimension is identified as lying in the notion of real and effective ‘community participation’.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
National Category
Environmental Management
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-62739OAI: diva2:481042
International Conference on Groundwater for Sustainable Development: Problems, Perspectives and Challenges (IGC-2006), New Delhi, 2006
QC 20120123Available from: 2012-01-20 Created: 2012-01-20 Last updated: 2012-01-23Bibliographically approved

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