In India,around 1 million people are at risk for arsenic contaminated drinking water. Concentration of Arsenic is higher in flood plains of Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers. The spread of arsenic contaminated ground water is mainly in the states of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Chhattisgarh.Dealing with arsenic mitigation is much more challenging in comparison to other water quality elements because it iscolourless, odourless and tasteless. To know the level of arsenic contamination in water, appropriate testing of water is required using laboratory or mobile testing methods. Similarly, its impacts on human health are also not visible immediately. Understanding all these challenges, including awareness which is theprevalentamong all, there is a pressing need of capacity building programs especially for frontline workers.
The Capacity Building Programme towards Mitigation of Arsenic in Drinking Water in Assam & Bihar under Project Civil Society Voices, Vulnerable Communities and Localised Platform for addressing Water Quality Challenges were coordinated and organized by the Arsenic Knowledge and Action Network of SaciWATERs with financial support from European Union and Cap-Netusing an online platform.It was a three part series, from 12-16October 2020.
The first session aimed at disseminating potential technologies to mitigate Arsenic and to create awareness of the supporting schemes that exist. The aim of the training was to build the capacity of Executive Engineers, Assistant Engineers, and Junior engineers or officials of similar rank from the various departments, CSO representatives etc.The state-specific sessions for Bihar and Assam were platforms where the expert speakers on the panel were government officials and CSO representatives. The workshop sessions 2 and 3 provided the insights from officials from water, health, nutrition and other relevant departments on state-specific water quality policies. Officials from CSO and NGO representatives shared their treasure of knowledge from the ground realities, the opportunities, gaps and challenges they face as they work at the ground level. Executive engineers, local CSOs/NGOs people, ASHA and Anganwadi workers, ANMs, Rural Water user association and other stakeholders from the state were invited to benefit as participants in this workshop.
The training program mode was online and it was successful in bringing several stakeholders to a common platform with a common goal of mitigating arsenic problems in drinking water and public health. Knowledge sharing of potential technologies by experts among various stakeholders. The issues brought out by the experts can be incorporated while designing the policies to mitigate water quality issues and the importance of community engagement in mitigating arsenic problems in the affected areas. The SaciWATERs Arsenic Knowledge and Action Network along with Cap-Net network will continue its initiative to bring diverse stakeholders together; for the common goal of solving water quality issues related to arsenic contamination.