Water woes

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jul 14 09:45:12 MDT 2002

NY Times, July 14, 2002
Bangladeshis Sipping Arsenic as Plan for Safe Water Stalls

CHOTOBINAR CHAP, Bangladesh -- The arsenic, a slow, sadistic killer, has
just about finished its work on Fazila Khatun. She teeters now. The
fatigue is constant. Pain pulses through her limbs. Warts and sores
cover the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet, telltale of the
long years of creeping poison.

Mrs. Khatun is hardly alone in this suffering. Bangladesh is in the
midst of what the World Health Organization calls the "largest mass
poisoning of a population in history." Tens of thousands of Bangladeshis
show the outward signs of the same decline. Some 35 million are drinking
arsenic-contaminated water, the poison accumulating within them day by
day, sip by sip.

This calamity is accompanied by paradox. For two decades, the
government, along with Unicef and various aid groups, desperately worked
to wean the nation from pond water, often an incubator for lethal
disease. People were instead urged to install tube wells, tapping into
the plentiful supply of underground aquifers. Regrettably, no one had
tested these subterranean sources for arsenic.

By the mid-1990's, Bangladeshi officials -- once reluctant to provoke
alarm -- finally admitted that yet another tragedy was unfolding in
their impoverished, disaster-plagued nation. In 1998, the World Bank
sped the normal paperwork and lent the government $32.4 million to act
on the emergency. Every tube well was to be tested. Safe sources of
water were to be provided.

But the race against time has gone badly. In the four years since The
New York Times first looked into the situation, the nation's "arsenic
mitigation project" has been hobbled by the unforeseen problems of so
unprecedented a crisis. It is yet another example of how the world's
poor continue to die from unsafe water, a threat long ago surmounted by
the wealthy.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/14/international/14POIS.html


NY Times, July 14, 2002
In Drought-Parched Arizona, Some Areas Drink Deeply

PHOENIX, July 11 -- This should be the so-called monsoon season here,
when moist Pacific air brings afternoon thundershowers. But only a trace
of rain has fallen since Arizona's devastating wildfires were finally
contained last week, providing little relief from a statewide drought
now entering a fourth year.

The lack of rain and snow has depleted ponds and reservoirs, parched
ground cover, killed herds of livestock and cost hundreds of millions of
dollars in agricultural revenue. The Bush administration recently
declared Arizona a drought disaster area, making many farmers and
ranchers eligible for low-interest loans and other aid.

"People out in the fields and people in the high country all tell me the
same thing," said Ken Evans, president of the Arizona Farm Bureau, an
organization of 15,000 members. "This is the worst drought in Arizona
since the white man came here," hundreds of years ago.

But in a desert state that relies on its federally mandated water
allotment from the Colorado River to support its rapid growth, a drought
does not mean water shortages everywhere.

While ranchers in many areas are selling thousands of animals to prevent
death by dehydration and some rural counties are having water trucked
in, residents of Phoenix and Tucson, the state's largest cities, are
free to wash their cars, soak their lawns and fill their swimming pools.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/14/national/14DROU.html


Louis Proyect

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