Unexpected Environmental Impacts of Development


While reading a book by Jennifer A. Elliot, I came accross an article that really got me thinking about other environmantal issues caused by development. We have a tendancy to concentrate on the effects of unsustainable practices on problems like global warming, which “some” don’t even believe exists; and don’t pay too much attention to direct impacts that development can cause.

The article refers to thousands of tubewells donated by donors to provide clean water to the people of Bangladesh. It is believed there is about 95% of drinking water being provided through over 3 million tubewells in the asian country. A Professor named Chakraborti of the University of Calcutta, uncovered that the 30 million people drinking from these wells are slowly being poisoned by “naturally occurring arsenic, which appear to be released by chemical changes prompted by the fluctuations in water levels caused by pumping”. Unfortunatly, it apparently takes ten years to see the first symptoms of the poisoning, which is increased skin pigmentation. This then leads to internal cancers. According to the article, there is no treatment for arsenic poisoning and the only way to solve the problem is to prevent it. This can only be done by testing the waters to find out which wells are contaminated (which is very simple), and then finding alternative sources of water. However, there is one tubewell for every four rural household in Bangladesh and the task would be immense.

The reason why I am talking about this article, is to raise questions and hopefully engage into a debate as to whether developing a nation by providing “safe water”, can be regarded as an achievement when it has consequences such as the above. Note that this is still clean water. Also, can this be refered to as sustainable development?


One Response to “Unexpected Environmental Impacts of Development”

  1. Sergiu Sidei Says:

    It is quite obvious that this cannot be classed as sustainable development since the these wells, no matter how well intentioned they were built there, produce negative impacts. This is not development, this is regression.
    Local authorities and communities need to be warned, more awareness needs to be raised as they probably don’t even realize the fact that they are being literally poisoned. And the sad truth is that by the time they realize it will be too late to change their lives. The local communities need to start working together and try to find alternative sources of water. Even if it is costly to test all the fountains, the four households could raise the money to test if the water in their nearest or most frequent used well is really clean or not. Therefore, local communities need to raise awareness regarding the potential levels of arsenic in the wells and start organizing a campaign of water testing. The campaign can only succeed by having co-operation of the local communities.

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