Bangladesh gov’t wells ‘not fixing arsenic crisis’

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By Katy Daigle and Julhas Alam, AP

DHAKA, Bangladesh–Arsenic-tainted government wells are still poisoning an estimated 20 million people in Bangladesh, a number that is unchanged from 10 years ago despite years of action to dig new wells at safer depths, according to a report released Wednesday.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring and toxic element found in the soil and groundwater of some areas of the world, including vast delta regions like Bangladesh and eastern India.

The new report by New York-based Human Rights Watch blames nepotism and neglect by Bangladeshi officials, saying they are deliberately having new wells dug in areas convenient for friends, family members and political supporters and allies, rather than in places where arsenic contamination is highest or large numbers of poor villagers are being exposed.

Government officials did not immediately comment on the findings.