Argentina-Bangladesh – Water management for water and food security
Training Center of the Bangladesh Chemical Society (ITCC-BCC), Dakha, and Dr. Javier Quagliano, R&D Institute of the Ministry of Defense (CITEDEF), Buenos Aires
This Case is about cooperation between Argentina and Bangladesh for dealing with arsenic contamination of water and food. In Bangladesh arsenic is in waters for supplying a population of hundred millions. Moreover, well waters are used mainly for irrigation in agricultural production, and toxic migrates to crops, as in certain areas of Argentina cropland. Solving this problem with scarce resources is a big challenge and needs different approaches from very different countries and cultures.
This Case Study had the main following Objectives: a) To analyze the environmental and health impact of water utilization in intensified agricultural systems that are alleged to be sustainable through a comparative analysis of agricultural policies b) To analyze the effects of appropriate technology interventions in preservation of water and land sources, and behavioral changes of actors involved in generating policies, c) To perform a comparative study of the ultimate effectiveness of different agricultural productive systems approaches in relation to the compromise of reaching high productivities while preserving environment in direction to sustainability d) to implement a strategic communication plan of the risks to the population. There is an issue in both countries regarding high arsenic content in aquifers in some Argentinian provinces an Bangladesh in all its extention. The source of the contamination is indigenous, due to the nature of geological constitution in both sides. In Argentina arsenic is a source of contamination of population because of drinking contaminated waters, as well as in Bangladesh. In Argentina is also a problem because well waters are used mainly for irrigation in agricultural production. The main areas affected are Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Andean Provinces. Development challenge was to eliminate toxic from surface and groundwaters and implement a plan for communicating this risk to population. On the other side, in Bangladesh its danger is mainly related to water availability for the enormous population, as hundreds of thousands of people drink water from hand-dug wells. Arsenic in water has been linked to food security as arsenic may be absorbed by rice, a very common food in the country. This creates a real food-related health hazard for the local communities. Additionally, high arsenic in soils may drastically reduce the yield of rice, resulting in the shortage of the staple food grain. In Bangladesh, undesirable levels of arsenic have been found in some other crops. The expected results were to develop a communication strategy from one side and a pilot portable purification plant from the technical side, using available materials to keep costs down. We engaged in the cooperation because we noticed that we share the same ecotoxicological issue in our countries. We took advantage as well of the facilitating policy of both Ministries of Science for fostering international cooperation among Thrid World Countries.
Our innovative approach introduced a combined modality of addressing together technical aspects of water treatment and the human factor as a driving force for accomplishing the objectives of the project. Regular surveys were performed by our research groups at our ends with local populations in both countries to perform a benchmarking of the surveys outcome. These results helped us to understand which were the key issues to be tackled, to develop a strategic plan of action and risk awareness and to know which resources were necessary to achieve the objectives. We found that adequate management of water and land could solve many problems combined with the appropriate technology developed for water treatment. From the technical side, we develop a water treatment system using appropiate technologies, based on calcinated bones from cattle for hydroxyapatite production for filters. Cases from abandoned pipelines were utilized for converting them to these bio-based adsorbent systems. These simple technology was very cheap, and also took advantage of agricultural residues for reaching high temperatures in the kiln. According to our systemic approach, we develop an structured survey aimed for stopping the use of contaminated agrochemical and introduce traditional agriculture will help to avoid arsenic removal from soils and lixiviation to watersheds. In this aspect, there is a huge experience in Argentina about sustainable agriculture and sowing with minimum soil disturbance. Therefore, we devised an strategic plan through this research to implement appropriate water-soil-crop management techniques should be used to reduce the arsenic load on the soils, crops, and the food chain. Our plan included an improved water management system to reduce the volume of irrigation water for growing crops, use surface water bodies instead of underground aquifers wherever possible. Particularly in Bangladesh, we establish the general guidelines to grow rice aerobically as much as possible.
We think that our main achievement above all is the development of a solid and self-sustained cooperation based on mutual trust. To enhance aid effectiveness, at this point it is of outmost importance to know how our projects could be embraced by international cooperation, through its different ways and tools, such as those from Paris declaration and Accra Agenda for Action. Although we tried to stick to our limited or even non existing budget, we realize that the cooperation outcome would be streamlined with developed countries aid. As this Case Study is an issue that requires urgent solution, we are aware where to allocate these aid to achieve the most of it without idle efforts and most important optimizing monetary resources. Overall, we have achieved a significant impact in our societies as a result of properly directed and managed research and communication to stakeholders (NGOs like Foco in Argentina, and public in general) through webpages and numerous meetings with affected population. Our idea is to better coordinate and streamline their activities at country level, based on our well established 3-years cooperation. This will help our developing countries to set our own strategies with the aid of developed ones through Paris and Accra declarations instruments. For long term projects, we envisage as well synergies between different actors, as we adapted as well some suggestions and experience from a colleague at the National University of Mexico (UNAM) which we know since 2003. Our case could be expanded to tackle on the different approaches we can follow to tackle the problem of heavy metal contamination of groundwaters in Latin America in comparison to Asian countries. To sum up, mutual learning was the final outcome of the project that could be highlighted, and which continues under development regardless of the funding we may collect for our cooperation.
We are confident that synergies were achieved during our research cooperation for optimizing aid effectiveness. After examining the challenges and the stakes involved we concluded that the principles of aid effectiveness were accounted (as implied in Paris Declaration) in development noticing that social and economic progress cannot be sustainable if all the actors of development are not involved. We have this principle as an alignment cord for our efforts. Our project has recognized the benefits derived from new collaborative partnership, although support from public government was mainly directed to incentive NGOs to be involved and to deliver frontline services (case of Foco NGO in Argentina, which intervened in the project providing young researchers for field surveys). Such subcontracts have been signed for social mobilization and risk assessment programs, and training in capacity development. We think that research on international environmental cooperation would benefit from greater attention to linkages in a context of a multitude of connected horizontal governance (our own project, NGOs and SME public officers) for fostering linkages and promoting network support for risk management at different echelons. As from general knowledge, it is recognized that the principles of international aid effectiveness signifies a sound coordination among partners. For the future of our research, we have to have in mind that receiving aid is a great responsibility. In this way, we were very careful to align our research with the strategies, procedures, and institutional frame of our countries (for example, Argentina has stringent ecological regulations since big water related contamination in 2004). In implementing our research, account will be taken of the need to harmonize and coordinate efforts, to improve application of normative and field programmes, to incorporate the lessons learned and implement good practices. People in Argentina are more sensitive to contamination as a result of previous issues (Botnia plant in Uruguay river). We expected that effective implementation will lead to sustainable reductions in food contamination through sound water management.
Capacity development benefits included upgraded communication strategies and developing of a framework for cooperating projects among our developing countries. We as partners agreed that disseminating water treatment technologies and risk evaluation in an overall or systemic framework approach as a routine practice for specific cases in Argentina and Bangladesh could be an advantage for sustainable development, although this needs further insights and studies. Lessons learned were that environmental issues cannot only be addressed from a technical focus but with a systemic one having in mind firstly humanitarian concerns.
2007 to date
Name of Primary Contact Person:
Dr Abul Basher Miah-Dr Javier Quagliano (2)
Title of Primary Contact Person:
Dr, Head of Institute; Dr, Associate Projectist (2)
Dakha, Buenos Aires