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Clean water is often taken for granted despite growing evidence that it is threatened in many parts of the world by either environmental contamination and/or socioeconomic problems, such as poverty, which often tend to go hand in hand. Arsenic contaminated ground water used for drinking and cooking is commonplace in many parts of Bangladesh. Like other chemical elements known to be poisonous to humans, arsenic is tolerated to some degree, but beyond certain thresholds ingesting arsenic is toxic leading to risk of disease and death.
Arsenic contaminated groundwater currently threatens the health of 70 million people in 61 of 64 districts in Bangladesh. Many people living in districts plagued with arsenic contaminated ground water regularly drink water with concentrations of arsenic far above national and WHO standards. An important study from Prof Peter Atkins and Dr Manzurul Hassan explores how groundwater arsenic concentration varies throughout areas of southwest Bangladesh. Understanding the scale of arsenic contamination, the complex processes that lead to arsenic in groundwater and how arsenic spreads over time is currently needed to reduce arsenic-related health risks. The study reveals a highly uneven spatial pattern of arsenic concentrations that can inform government policy for addressing where high levels of arsenic contamination occur in order to mitigate arsenic poisoning, a health and social hazard. 358 of the 375 tubewells sampled in the study had concentrations of arsenic of at least .05 mg/L and only 17 of the tubewells (4.50 percent) sampled are considered arsenic-safe. This is a large health concern for people living in areas of Bangladesh where the only source of water they have is contaminated with arsenic that is either above or well above the WHO standard (<0.01 mg/L), but also the limit set by the government of Bangladesh (0.05 mg/L). Read more
The River Eden is one of the most beautiful rivers in the UK, if not all of Europe. It is host to a wide variety of different plant and animal species and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Many communities live on or near the River Eden or one of its tributaries. Human impact on the landscape often has unintended or unforeseen consequences on ecosystems, including rivers. Agriculture, primarily through the use of fertilisers, changes the ecology of river systems which affects all plant and wildlife as well as humans.
Over time, pollutants accumulate in the River Eden through farming practices, something that has been of concern to local communities and scientists alike. In order to monitor and develop ways for decreasing diffuse pollution from agriculture, researchers from Durham, Lancaster, Newcastle, the Centre for Hydrology and Ecology, Askham Bryan College (Newton Rigg) and the Eden Rivers Trust, have come together with communities, including farmers, to develop new ways to monitor and improve river water quality. The project known as the Eden Demonstration Test Catchment, or EdenDTC for short, has installed 10 river monitoring stations to monitor the water quality of the River Eden. The EdenDTC has made live, real-time data about the River Eden freely available online. Read more
A new report from the United Nations Environmental Field Programme (UNEP) was launched recently during ‘World Water Week’ in Stockholm, Sweden – ‘An Ecosystems Approach to Water and Food Security’. It was ‘written by over 50 contributors from 21 organizations and uses case studies from China, Guatemala, Jordan and other communities’.
It not only highlights how to conserve food and water resources and make them more widely available, but explains in detail how ‘ecosystem services’ can play a crucial role in resilience to climate change, a growing world population and increasing scarcity of food and water resources. Read more
On this blog we have explored research on arsenic contaminated drinking water in Bangladesh in an interview with Dr Manzurul Hassan who was a visiting researcher in IHRR last year, and is a colleague of Prof Peter Atkins based in the Dept of Geography in Durham University who also works on the arsenic problem. Arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh is without a doubt one of the worst environmental problems in the world today affecting the health of millions of people in Bangladesh and other countries in Southeast Asia.
The American Geophysical Union Fall meeting is held every year in San Francisco and is one of the largest geosciences meetings with over 19,000 people attending. The meeting is held over five days in two huge meeting spaces (think multiple indoor football pitches, and then two floors of them). The sheer scale of the meeting means it’s hard to see every presentation that is relevant to you, let alone the sessions on topics that are a step away from your core interests. It is these sessions that often lead to new ideas for your core problems – stepping over that disciplinary divide often pays dividends. Read more