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[DHAKA] Jute, an abundantly available local material, shows promise in removing arsenic —a major contaminant in Bangladesh’s groundwater — from irrigation channels, according to a new study.

The findings, published online last month (October) in Ecological Engineering extend hope to farmers in parts of the country where arsenic in irrigation water is a challenge. An estimated 30 million people who depend on groundwater are at risk for arsenic poisoning in this deltaic country.

The study, conducted jointly by the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) and North Carolina State University, showed the “efficient particle-trapping properties” of jute mesh when installed in a zigzag fashion in 27-metre-long irrigation channels.

“Our study showed a seven per cent decline in arsenic in the controlled experiment compared to only three per cent decline in the non-amended (no jute mesh) irrigation channel,” Ashraf Ali, one of the authors of the study and a senior researcher at BUET, tells  SciDev.Net

“Future work could optimise structure designs and establish the season-long sustainability of enhanced arsenic-removal strategies,” Ali adds.

The study argues that arsenic removal appear to be largely due to the increased time during which water remains within the irrigation channel and the particle-trapping efficiency of the jute-mesh.

According to the study, while the results are not significant, they promise in the use of a low-cost material such as jute in reducing arsenic load in irrigated rice fields in Bangladesh.

Ganesh Chandra Saha, a senior researcher at the Dhaka University of Engineering and Technology agrees with the findings of the study. “While the study is very promising the experiment of arsenic removal is not very significant and needs further research,” Saha says.

> Link to article in Ecological Engineering

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South Asia desk.