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North 24 Parganas, West Bengal

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"Arsenic poisoning has been called one of the biggest mass poisonings, affecting close to 90 million people in West Bengal and Bangladesh, and spreading.

Swanirvar's focus on regular water testing and on low-cost alternatives (rain harvesting, home-based water filters) is an important approach that compliments larger-scale investments by state governments.

My hope is this project can be replicated in other affected areas."

- Suzanne Buckley,
CIVA Sponsor

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Abatement of Arsenic in Drinking Water

This is the 4th phase of Swanirvar's Arsenic Abatement project, focused on continuing to educate affected communities about the importance of monitoring arsenic levels in drinking water and about the various low-cost arsenic abatement methods available.

Program Goals

One of the main goals of this phase of the project is encouraging families in affected areas to return to rain water harvesting as it is a low-cost and arsenic-free source of drinking and cooking water.

Swanirvar's arsenic abatement program has been in place since 2000. During the first three phases, they set up 21 Arsenic Abatement Plants in 20 villages in North 24 Parganas district, and undertook extensive community awareness and water testing campaigns in both North 24 Parganas and Nadia districts.

They found that even villages that were aware of arsenic in ground water were not always informed that tube wells and even deep wells that were initially testing as safe could become unsafe over time due to arsenic leaching into the well water. They therefore stressed the importance of regular testing of well-water, and the importance of maintaining arsenic-removal units, whether large-scale or home-based.

They also made affordable domestic arsenic filters more widely available in this region, a program that is now covering its own costs.


Since receiving funding for Phase 4, Swanirvar has undertaken dozens of awareness events and has actively advocated for more widespread use of rain water harvesting, a source of potable water that used to be very common but was almost totally abandoned once the drilling of tube wells and deep wells became affordable and widespread.

Swanirvar is in the process of making a movie about a whole locality as well as individual families who reintroduced the use of rain water for drinking some years ago. They plan to show it to other villages to encourage people to visit these families and get enthused to start collecting rain water themselves.

Swanirvar is also planning on setting up two rain water harvesting structures to demonstrate larger scale rain collection methods.

Phase 4 was funded in October 2007. Completion date of the current phase is scheduled for September 2008.

About Swanirvar

Swanirvar means self-reliance. We strongly support that goal.

Increasing awareness of this very real and devastating problem has saved many lives and lead communities to be more pro-active and involved in engaging their local and state politicians in addressing this problem more directly and efficiently. I admire Swanirvar's focus on educating and empowering the local communities, giving them more control and more tools to deal with issues that greatly impact their lives.

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