District platform for arsenic mitigation: Training and capacity building for stakeholders

On 13-28 September, a series of two-day capacity-building workshops for stakeholders were conducted in four Indian districts – Buxar, Bhagalpur (Bihar) Nalbari, and Jorhat (Assam). – with the support of SCaN, SaciWATERs- Cap Net Network and the European Union.

SaciWATERs has been working with these four district administrations and relevant stakeholders in the past to establish a district-level,people-centric platform for addressing arsenic challenges. The workshops provided capacity building on these issues and the platform.

Facts show that India faces a severe drinking water crisis with more than 50 million people exposed to arsenic contaminated ground water. There are several regions in the country, particularly the Brahmaputra-ganga- Meghna Basin that are affected with arsenic contamination and have no access or very limited access to safe drinking water. Prolonged consumption of arsenic contaminated water leads to several human diseases, such as skin lesions, lung cancer or mental instability.

There are various arsenic mitigation options available. However, because of the lack of awareness, know-how and inadequate knowledge about arsenic’s impact on the surrounding environment and human health, the appropriate mitigations options have not reached the main stakeholders in the communities.

The capacity-building workshop had three key goals:

1) Understanding arsenic as a pollutant of water and its effect on human health.

2) Learning about individual and community level arsenic mitigation measures as well as understanding the various local level alternative water sources.

3) Understanding the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders and institutions for the sustainable mitigation of arsenic.

The training program included classroom session, open discussions and field visit. In the classroom sessions, the participants were introduced to the concept of arsenic and its impact on human health, the role of nutrition for the prevention of arsenicosis, alternative safe water sources (rainwater harvesting, pond rejuvenation etc.) and arsenic removal technologies. A total of 248 people were trained across the 4 districts and among them 30% were female.

During the workshops two technologies were piloted. One was “Arsiron Nilogan” developed by Tezpur University, Assam and the other was “Bio sand filter” developed by Sehagal foundation, Delhi. Their installation, costs and operational procedures and maintenance (O&M) were discussed. In addition, a separate session was conducted for the plant operators of the water supply schemes, engineers, PRI members and representatives of water users committee regarding the operation & maintenance and community role for sustaining Public Water Supply Schemes (PWSS). This was followed by a field visit.

              

 Arsenic Removal Technology Demonstration at Jorhat, Assam                           Field visit to PWSS at Bhagalpur, Bihar

The training workshops have strengthened the capacity and knowledge of the participants about the arsenic mitigation measures and it is expected that the participants can implement and manage the tested technologies and other mitigation measures in their respective areas. The participants of the training program are now equipped to raise awareness and conduct trainings for other groups about arsenic and its mitigation measures in a cascade mode to ensure that learning, awareness and capacities to deal with the issue spreads in a natural and exponential way across affected communities.