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The 4th Dhaka Declaration adopted on the concluding day of a two-day international conference on arsenic contamination of groundwater recommended the use of rain and surface water to avoid arsenic-related diseases. It said there has been no significant achievement regarding supply of arsenic-free water in affected areas in Bangladesh. </P>
<P>The declaration called for "extreme caution" in recommending any solution, either as an alternative source of water or as an arsenic removal technology unless adequate scientific evaluation is carried out by a competent authority. All agencies should consider use of surface and rainwater before suggesting groundwater withdrawal, except in unavoidable circumstances.</P>
<P>President Bodruddoza Choudhury also expressed serious concern at the problem and called for further studies on arsenic contamination of the food chain while addressing the conference.</P>
<P>"The social ill effects and socio-economic problems of arsenic must not be overlooked. I am sure policy planners and implementers will take note of this serious issue," he said.</P>
<P>Three other declarations were adopted at the three international conferences held in Dhaka. </P>
<P>The Declaration said, before recommending extraction of groundwater from deeper aquifers, safety of aquifers must be ensured. Geological parameters should be studied to ensure that the aquifers are safe for use in future.</P>
<P>Special studies should be done on arsenic contamination in the food chain and its impact on food production, it said.</P>
<P>"Considering the severity and magnitude of the enormous human tragedy, the efforts so far made are still too slow," Prof. Mahmudur Rahman, Coordinator of Dhaka Community Hospital, read out from the declaration. </P>
<P>Mahfuz Anam expressed serious concern at the slow progress of arsenic mitigation activities and suggested setting up of a 'special body' at the Prime Minister's Office to look into the arsenic problem exclusively.</P>
<P>"Lets us wake up and go into little more action," Anam told the gathering.</P>
<P>The declaration also noted that there is no known treatment for arsenic patients and urged experts to develop an acceptable treatment and management system for thousands of patients in the country.</P>
<P>More than 100 participants, including epidemiologists, hydrologists, geo-chemists, dermatologists, geologists, cancer specialists, biologists, environmentalists and medical practitioners from home and abroad took part in the conference.