Not A Drop To Drink
It’s hard to imagine for Australians. A country where the skies pour forth a solid regular 2 METRES of rainfall a year, and snow melt from the Himalayas guarantee the rivers never run dry…but in Bangladesh it still is hard to find a clean drop to drink. There’s no tradition where we run our schools of drinking rainwater.
Few can afford gutters let alone a storage tank….plus there is an ample supply of dust and pollution to make rainwater less palatable. And then there is the surface water, rarely pure enough to be see-through, whether in rivers or ponds.
There is groundwater aplenty—tastes of methane, but once you get used to it, pretty good, and it is to the groundwater Bangladeshis turn for ‘clean’ water. Trouble is, if you don’t sink your wells deep enough, you hit either salty water (from the Bay of Bengal) or worse still arsenic (heavy metal that occurs naturally here and drifts downwards through the soil into the groundwater). Arsenic can’t be seen, smelt or tasted…but the results can be seen.
Skin lesions that don’t look that different to leprosy are not uncommon if you keep on drinking poisoned water year after year. At our schools we are seeing less and less of this, with the wells we commissioned at each of our schools sunk beneath the arsenic level…and marked with a purple badge that lets people know they are safe to drink. The schools often become the centre of community activity…just because of the clean water available at the hand pumps.