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Social and Institutional Provisions for Arsenic Risk Mitigation in West Bengal: Achievements and Challenges

Water Insecurity: A Social Dilemma

ISBN: 978-1-78190-882-2, eISBN: 978-1-78190-883-9

ISSN: 2040-7262

Publication date: 11 August 2014


Arsenic contamination in shallow groundwater aquifers in the lower Gangetic basin constitutes a major health hazard in the Bengal basin extended over Bangladesh and India. It has been estimated that at least 35 million people in Bangladesh and 6 million people in India are severely affected by arsenic-contaminated water. More so, about 57 and 9 million people in Bangladesh and West Bengal, respectively, are exposed to arsenic-contamination risk. The use of hazardous, arsenic-bearing groundwater for drinking, cooking, and irrigation in West Bengal and Bangladesh has led to what has been described by the WHO as the worst case of mass poisoning in human history. In case of West Bengal, the problem of arsenic contamination was discovered in the 1980s; since then several mitigation measures were adopted by the provincial and federal governments, community organizations, and NGOs. Yet, poor infrastructural arrangements, dire poverty, lack of awareness, and education increased the risk of arsenic exposure over the decades. In this chapter, an effort has been made to critically analyze the extent of mitigation measures adopted so far in the state of West Bengal. It discusses in detail the chronological responses of the provincial government in arsenic risk mitigation, implementation of adopted mitigation measures, and the consequent response and actions of arsenic-affected communities in West Bengal. The chapter also highlights the emerging challenges of arsenic risk mitigation in West Bengal and proposes a “system-based” framework for risk mitigation.




The first author greatly acknowledges MEXT (MONBUKAGAKUSHO) scholarship provided by the Japanese Government for conducting research in the Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies of Kyoto University. The authors also acknowledge the support of GOCE-ARS (sustainability/survivability science for a resilience society to extreme weather conditions) and Studies on the Connectivity of Hilltop, Human and Ocean (CoHHO) program of Kyoto University.


DasGupta, R. and Shaw, R. (2014), "Social and Institutional Provisions for Arsenic Risk Mitigation in West Bengal: Achievements and Challenges", Water Insecurity: A Social Dilemma (Community, Environment and Disaster Risk Management, Vol. 13), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 75-95.



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