Social workers and public representatives of the upazila have sought urgent attention and intervention of the authorities concerned
People of Rajbari’s Baliakandi upazila are facing an arsenic hazard as elevated level of arsenic contamination has been found in the groundwater of the area.Nearly 25,000 tube wells in 28 villages in seven unions of the upazila are feared to have been contaminated with the poisonous chemical.
Hundreds of people living in the upazila have started to show signs and symptoms of arsenic poisoning. However, no government initiatives have yet been taken to test the affected tube well water or provide treatment to the infected people.
The Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) has installed 3,200 tube wells in Baliakandi upazila so far while additional 25,000 more tube wells were set up privately. Of them, around 1,000 tube wells have been identified with arsenic contamination.
Under the circumstances, thousands of families living in Balikandi sadar upazila, Islampur, Baharpur, Nawabpur, Narua, Jangal, Jamalpur area are living in a serious health hazard every day. Those infected by the waterborne poisoning claimed that government agencies have neither provided them any treatment nor taken any steps to check the water.
Social workers and public representatives of the upazila have sought the attention and intervention of the authorities concerned as soon as possible.
Morshed Sheikh, 35, a resident of Baharpur union ward 9, said: “Queer splotchy spots have been appeared on the skins of my hands, legs, chest, back. Locals said I am infected with arsenic.I have set aside my tube well’s water out of fear. All the villagers including children are living with the arsenic phobia.”
Morshed’s sister Rina Begum, who is also affected by arsenic poisoning, said: “I am suffering from skin darkening on my body due to drinking the tube well water. I do not drink it anymore and bring fresh water from a faraway place. No government physician has come to our house for treatment yet.”
Helena Anju Lipi, a housewife in Islam union, said she and her family members do not drink the tube well water anymore and use it for other household work.
Md Helal, a local social worker, said: “Thousands of people in Baliakandi upazila have fallen helpless due to the arsenic contamination. I am calling upon the authorities concerned to run tests of the water and provide urgent treatment to the infected people.
Bishnu Pada Saha, a member of Islampur union ward 3, said: “An arsenic epidemic has broken out in the villages. Almost of all the villagers have tube wells in their houses and many are witnessing darkening of skin and other symptoms on their bodies. We want an immediate remedy of the situation.”
District civil surgeon Dr Rahim Baksh said the arsenic-hit patients are being treated in hospitals and through health workers.
“People must drink arsenic-free water and consume a lot of vegetables and vitamin-rich food in their diet,” he said.
Baliakandi Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Md Masum Reza said social media platform and megaphones are being used to create awareness among the locals. The Union Parishad (UP) chairmen are also working to alert people of the situation. However, since the public health department is suffering from a manpower shortage, it is difficult to oversee everything at a time.
“If everyone can bring water samples from their respective tube wells, we can run tests and be sure of the level of arsenic contamination. Several people have already been diagnosed with arsenic infection and are undergoing treatment at hospitals. It is an alarming matter and we must take action before it is too late,” he added.