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June 2004 Newsletter

Greetings from Nepal,

Among the paddies of the Terai lies a Tharu village called Kunwar.   This village of 113 households is composed of eight ethnic groups who make a living as farmers, laborers, and one tractor driver.  During this time of year most of the women are planting rice in the fields as well as taking care of their family.

There is a unique problem this village faces: it is the most arsenic contaminated village in Nawalparasi and all of Nepal.  It is common to find a tube well with 25 to 50 times (500 ppb) the World Health Organization standard for arsenic in drinking water (10 ppb).   For several years organizations visited the village, taking water samples and hair and fingernail samples.   A few 3-gagri filters were distributed to some households by two groups, but the filters weren't monitored and people were not taught how to put them together.  One filter was found lying under a man's bed, disassembled because he wasn't taught how to put it together.  I tested 4 filters last year and found they were broken, the water coming from the filter was 200 to 250 ppb arsenic.  The 3-gagri filter flow rate is only 5 liters per hour. Because the rate is so low some households were using the filter water for the person who showed outward signs of arsenic poisoning.  The rest of the family continued to drink the high arsenic tube well water.

Dr. Smith demonstrating an arsenic filter to a Nepali woman
Villagers soon became frustrated with the large numbers of groups coming into the village to conduct research without offering a solution to their water problem.  This April, Filters for Families sponsored an Arsenic and Sanitation Workshop in Kunwar.  Over 70 participants attended our outdoor meeting beneath the shade of several sal trees (see photo below).  For the first time villagers were given an opportunity to participant in a solution to the arsenic problem.  We also organized a united effort among 3 other organizations with intentions to help the village.  The Asian Arsenic Network of Japan will provide a more detailed sanitation workshop late this fall, MIT/ENPHO will monitor the new arsenic biosand filters in August and December, and Nepal Red Cross will continue to assist these groups.

As of today, June 14th, 60 filters have been subsidized by Filters for Families. Another 53 filters will be installed by July this year.  Our project has not ended, we have made a 3 year commitment to Kunwar.   There are still many arsenic related health problems that need medical attention and education programs for adults and children.  Our goal is to partner with our communities, to listen to their concerns and work together to find solutions.

To find out more about Filters for Families, please visit our web site:


Dr. Linda Smith, Director

Aerial view of Mt. Everest by Kerem Barut / Download Wallpaper