Filter projects - Against the poison in Bangladesh's drinking water

According to the WHO and research, the arsenic-contaminated groundwater in Bangladesh is "the greatest mass poisoning in history". Of the 160 million inhabitants living in Bangladesh, 20 million drink contaminated water every day. Every year, 43,000 Bangladeshis die from this insidious poisoning, because even small amounts of arsenic can cause various types of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and damage to the nervous system. The arsenic contamination is geogenic, i.e. the arsenic is dissolved from the sediment into the groundwater and reaches the surface via wells. Despite intensive research, the exact processes are not yet fully understood. However, there are a number of possibilities to produce clean drinking water by treating the extracted groundwater. These measures, however, are only very rarely implemented in Bangladesh.



Human Rights Watch report about the arsenic contaminated groundwater in Bangladesh.


The arsenic problem in Bangladesh has been known for over 30 years, and there is still no marketable solution that can be established nationwide. In recent years, the association's own funds have been used to provide numerous filter systems and deep wells, through which arsenic-free water has been made available in 20 villages. "Just a drop in the ocean", because far more wells and filters would be necessary for the area-wide supply.


More should be done to ensure that people there also receive the basic right to clean drinking water. This was the topic of a recent discussion between the honorary chairwoman of the Heidelberg-based association "Agape e. V." Christine Weitmann and the chairman Dr. Martin Maier, together with the Federal Minister of Development Dr. Gerd Müller and the member of the German Bundestag Prof. Dr. A. Lamers in Berlin. After this meeting the possibilities of financing projects by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) were examined.


In order to find a long-term, financially viable and sustainable solution to the problem, the association was able to involve a group of researchers from the University of Heidelberg in this topic in 2015. Since 2015, the hydrogeologist and hydrogeochemist from the "Biogeochemistry" research group Dr. Martin Maier has been working on a voluntary basis to supervise the projects implemented in Bangladesh. Via third-party University funding, work has also been carried out in the years 2017 - 2020 to identify the exact causes of the problem.


In the meantime, Dr. Martin Maier is the new chairman of AGAPE e.V. With the support of the team at the University of Heidelberg, he is still committed to finding a long-term and sustainable solution. The development and testing of filter systems using new filter materials (see projects) is already well advanced. Various prototypes are currently being tested in the Ullapara and Sirajganj (NW Bangladesh) and Nabiganj (NE Bangladesh) areas. The next step is to set up a system whereby used filter cartridges can be taken back and recycled - for the most economical and ecological use possible.


We are already very close to achieving our goal, so that political support for the project through the Federal Ministry for Development and Cooperation seems fundamentally conceivable. Until then we are dependent on donations.

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