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Arsenic contamination of irrigation water, soil and crops in Bangladesh

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RAP PUBLICATION 2006/20Arsenic contamination of irrigation water,soil and crops in Bangladesh:Risk implications for sustainableagriculture and food safety in AsiaRAP PUBLICATION 2006/20FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONSREGIONAL OFFICE FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFICBangkok, 2006Arsenic contamination of irrigation water,soil and crops in Bangladesh:Risk implications for sustainableagriculture and food safety in AsiaAlex HeikensThe designation and presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinionwhatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legalstatus of any country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers andboundaries.All rights reserved. Reproduction and dissemination of material in this information product for educational orother non-commercial purposes are authorized without any prior written permission from the copyright holdersprovided the source is fully acknowledged. Reproduction of material in this information product for sale orother commercial purposes is prohibited without written permission of the copyright holders. Applications forsuch permission should be addressed to the Water Resources Development and Conservation Officer, FAORegional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Maliwan Mansion, 39 Phra Atit Road, Bangkok 10200, Thailand orby e-mail to [email protected] FAO 2006ISBN 974-9746-88-2Photo credits cover page: Dr G.M. Panaullah, CIMMYT, BangladeshFor copies write to: Zhijun ChenWater Resources Development and Conservation OfficerFAO Regional Office for Asia and the PacificMaliwan Mansion, 39 Phra Atit RoadBangkok 10200THAILANDTel: (+66) 2 697 4000Fax: (+66) 2 697 4445E-mail: [email protected] in irrigation water, soil and cropsContentsPageForeword ........................................................................................................................................ vAcronyms........................................................................................................................................ viExecutive summary ....................................................................................................................... vii1. Background............................................................................................................................. 11.1 Arsenic contaminated irrigation water: the risks ............................................................. 22. Arsenic in agriculture: current knowledge .......................................................................... 42.1 Soil chemistry .................................................................................................................. 42.2 Crops ................................................................................................................................ 62.3 Arsenic speciation in foods .............................................................................................. 113. Bangladesh .............................................................................................................................. 133.1 Arsenic in irrigation water, soil and crops ....................................................................... 133.2 Human exposure .............................................................................................................. 183.3 Agricultural management options .................................................................................... 254. Summary and recommendations .......................................................................................... 264.1 Knowledge and gaps in knowledge ................................................................................. 264.2 Recommendations ............................................................................................................ 284.3 Stakeholders ..................................................................................................................... 294.4 Lessons learned ................................................................................................................ 31References....................................................................................................................................... 32Appendix I ...................................................................................................................................... 38vArsenic in irrigation water, soil and cropsForewordNatural arsenic contamination of groundwater resources in parts of Asia is posing a serious threat to thehealth of millions of people. The issue of contaminated drinking-water has been taken up by governmentsand development partners and many efforts are under way to mitigate the problem. However, the samewater resources are used extensively for irrigation purposes throughout the region too. Over the last fewyears, questions have been raised by governments, the general public and development partners aboutthe possible risks of irrigating with arsenic-contaminated water and about mitigation options.The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific(FAO–RAP) has therefore prepared this technical report to provide insight into the behaviour ofarsenic in food and agriculture, and to evaluate available knowledge of the effects of irrigating witharsenic-contaminated water on crop production and food safety in Asia. The focus is on Bangladesh,where most studies on arsenic contaminated irrigation water have been carried out. It is also the countrywith the most serious arsenic contamination crisis in the drinking-water sector. Throughout the report,specific attention is given to rice because it is the most important staple crop in Asia, and it is one of thecrops most sensitive to arsenic contamination.Information provided in this report is based on peer-reviewed publications in international journals andon discussions with experts from various organizations. In particular, Professor A.A. Meharg, Universityof Aberdeen, and Dr G.M. Panaullah, The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre(CIMMYT), Bangladesh, are acknowledged. From FAO, Sasha Koo-Oshima (Water Quality andEnvironment Officer), Zhijun Chen (Water Resources Development and Conservation Officer) andThierry Facon (Senior Water Management Officer) are


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