Groundwater in Bangladesh has become toxic
Rising sea levels are adding arsenic to groundwater. In this, the underground water of Bangladesh has become toxic. Ninety-seven percent of people in the country are drinking this water. These data have emerged in a study published on January 31, 2024, in the journal PLOS One.
Bangladesh is at high risk of climate change and sea level rise. Being close to sea level, 20 percent of the land is submerged in water during the monsoon season.
This level has been higher for the past few years. Summer cyclones produce storm surges of about 30 feet along the coast, which is one of the reasons for this risk.
Researchers in Bangladesh collected water samples from tube wells to analyze the oxygen concentration, pH, and temperature. The purpose was to gain insight into the factors contributing to the release of arsenic.
When saltwater and fresh water mix, arsenic from the sediments is released, causing the crisis. In the early 1970s, the United Nations and other organizations began a large project in Bangladesh to install around 10 million tube wells. Before that, surface water was the primary source of drinking water for most people.
The safe limit for drinking water set by the World Health Organization is a maximum of 10 micrograms per litter. About 49 percent of Bangladesh’s groundwater has arsenic concentrations above that limit.
A professor from Norwich University in Vermont described this situation as a public health crisis. Drinking water with high levels of arsenic can lead to severe health problems such as skin, bladder, liver, and lung cancers, as well as fatal blood diseases.