Ecological Management Foundation project aims to bring arsenic-free water to country
An estimated 77 million people in Bangladesh, or roughly half of the country's population, have been exposed to toxic arsenic levels in their drinking water since the 1970s, when the installation of hand-pumped wells throughout the country began tapping groundwater laden with naturally occurring arsenic. In response to this crisis, the Ecological Management Foundation (EMF) launched The Bangladesh Water Project in 2008 to create an economically viable solution that will provide the people of Bangladesh with safe drinking water. A grant to the EMF from Pentair Inc. and its foundation will support The Bangladesh Project.
"Tragically, the people in Bangladesh are being poisoned by toxic arsenic levels in their drinking water," said Susan Carter, manager of the Pentair Foundation. "The good news is the Ecological Management Foundation is working diligently to change these conditions. Pentair is proud to help positively impact global water quality and we hope to help make a difference across Bangladesh."
The World Health Organization has called the Bangladeshis' exposure to arsenic the largest mass poisoning of a population in history. Furthermore, a 10-year study by University of Chicago researchers indicated that more than 20% of the deaths in Bangladesh were caused by arsenic exposure from contaminated drinking water. Arsenic is toxic to the liver, skin, kidneys and the cardiovascular system, and can cause certain kinds of cancer.
The EMF's five-year goal for The Bangladesh Project is to prove that micro drinking water businesses can be run as commercial businesses, and that Bangladesh's rural residents will be willing to pay for arsenic-free water. Within 10 years, the project aims to develop 30,000 financially independent micro water businesses–or one in each rural village–in Bangladesh.
Since the Bangladesh Project began in 2008, the EMF has completed a research and feasibility phase, which compared the viability of different arsenic removal technologies. An innovative, low-cost and environmentally friendly deionization technology from Voltea, with which Pentair maintains an equity and technology partnership, was selected as the most effective option. This deionization water filtration technology removes arsenic and salt through an electric charge, leaving behind desalinated and deionized safe drinking water. The project's next step is a demonstration project to test the technology in the field and conduct market research on product and pricing.