Mitigating arsenic contamination of well water
Arsenic contamination of well water is a significant problem in the Mekong subregion. Long-term consumption of highly arsenic concentrations causes aresenicosis and can lead to cancer and death. Since 2003, the UNICEF Regional Office has been working with the Cambodian Ministry of Rural Development to identify high-risk zones of arsenic contamination. This has included well testing, mapping and information management. More than 20,000 wells were tested as of end 2005 and marked either safe or not safe for drinking.
Based on that progress as well as the growing awareness of arsenic contamination in Lao PDR, Myanmar and Viet Nam, the Regional Adviser for Water and Sanitation, Mark Henderson, has been seeking greater funding to continue testing and other mitigation activities in all four countries.
“UNICEF is working with these governments to prepare national strategic action plans for reducing risks to arsenic exposure through drinking water,” he explains. In addition, “there is an urgent need for funding to assist rural communities in high-risk areas to have access to alternative, arsenic-free water supplies. These include new boreholes or wells, greater reliance on rainwater harvesting and ceramic filters for treating pond or river water in the home to make it safe for drinking.”