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NWO WOTRO grant awarded to TU Delft/Dhaka University initiative

Subsurface Arsenic Removal for rural drinking water supply in Bangladesh.

NWO WOTRO has awarded a grant to an initiative by TU Delft/Dhaka University to solve the problem of arsenic contamination of Bangladesh groundwater with a social-technological framework to study an innovative technology: Subsurface Arsenic Removal. WOTRO is the science division within NWO which supports scientific research on development issues, in particular poverty alleviation and sustainable development. The awarded grant is for an Integrated Programme between Bangladesh and the Netherlands, involving, Dhaka University, Wageningen Unversity, UNESCO-IHE, VU University Amsterdam and Delft University of Technology. Key stakeholders in Bangladesh are the Department of Public Health Engineering (government), UNICEF and WaterAid.

The objective of the five-year-project is to assess the acceptability, social-technological feasibility, and sustainability of Subsurface Arsenic Removal in the diverse settings of rural Bangladesh.

Arsenic contamination of shallow tube well drinking water in Bangladesh is an urgent developmental and health problem, disproportionately affecting the rural poor, i.e. those most reliant on this source of drinking water. The research study explicitly takes on the challenge to assess social-technical feasibility of an arsenic mitigation option in geo-hydrologically and socially diverse conditions of rural Bangladesh, in close collaboration with a parallel acceptability and implementation assessment.

Subsurface Arsenic Removal (SAR) relies on existing infrastructure of a shallow hand-pump based tube-well and retains arsenic in the subsurface. As such, it has crucial advantages over other household/community arsenic removal filters (no costly filter media, tube well is 1st preferred drinking water option, (minimum) additional hardware widely available, additional removal of iron, and potential for post-deployment monitoring of water quality).

Although there has been extensive practical experience with subsurface iron and manganese removal in Europe, the application for subsurface arsenic removal is novel. For the wide dissemination of SAR in Bangladesh it is essential to fully understand the geochemical and microbial processes of iron and arsenic (im)mobilization under shifting redox conditions in the natural multi-component subsurface environment; and to understand how compatible SAR is with local belief systems and practices relating to health and water use; and local modes of risk governance.
The awarded research proposal is the result of two workshops, in Dhaka and Delft, where all partners formulated four interrelated PhD sub-projects for this multi-disciplinary project: Social Science/Environmental Policy, Drinking Water Engineering, Geohydrology, and Microbiology. The PhD students will get started in the spring of 2010 and early research findings will be closely followed by the key stakeholders for potential dissemination in the field.
NWO WOTRO SAR workshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh , 8-10 August 2009
NWO WOTRO SAR workshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh , 8-10 August 2009
 NWO WOTRO SAR workshop in Delft, 27-28 August 2009
NWO WOTRO SAR workshop in Delft, 27-28 August 2009 
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