Mr. Ayan Biswas – Manager, Advocacy, Arghyam

Ayan has about 10 years of experience in the water sector. Before joining Arghyam, he worked as a research scientist at People’s Science Institute (PSI), Dehradun. During which, he trained various NGO representatives, PRI members and social action groups on water quality management. Ayan has hands-on experiences of monitoring water pollution in surface and ground water sources. His other interests include environmental flows and river basin management. Ayan is a Nuffic Fellow and has a Post-Graduate Degree in Environmental Sciences (with a specialization in water quality management)  from UNESCO-IHE, The Netherlands. He also holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Environment Management from Indian Institute of Social Welfare & Business Management.

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Arsenic is found  in eight states in India ( Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Eastern Utter Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Assam)  In Karnataka, it can be found in the regions of Kolar and Raichur.

Reasons for arsenic contamination:

  1. Geogenic Reasons (natural reasons): Arsenic Pyrites, which is a combination of arsenic + iron, 10-80 m from ground surface.
  2. Unnatural – arsenic leached out due borewells, goldmines

Aquifers: aquifers can store and transfer water underground. Arsenic brought down to the valleys from the Himalayas mixed with the water. The water started getting trapped underground. In the 1970s, hand pumps were introduced by the government that were shallow in depth (40-60 m) causing redox reaction leaching out iron and arsenic.
G.M.B: Ganga, Meghna and Brahmaputra Plain which consists of 500 sq. Kilometers has 600 million people who are at risk of arsenic poisoning.

Only two states aren’t part of the  plain – Karnataka and Chattisgarh where gold mining is present. Gold Mines leach out iron and arsenic during the process of roasting, leaving the soil red. Deposits left over are either thrown on land or in water. All water bodies have strong groundwater connections; therefore the arsenic spreads from rivers and lakes into aquifers.

Due to oxidization arsenic is more stable in rivers and lakes than groundwater. Since the atomic weight is more arsenic sinks to the bottom of the water body as opposed to bore wells.

Existing kits:  MERCK, Hach and Jaal Tara Testing Kit.
Allowed level of arsenic in drinking water is 10 mcg/l, by the B.I.S (Bureau of Indian Standards) developed in 2003. Most sources have up to 100 mcg/l. The kit we are developing therefore will have to be able to test the up to 100 mcg/l without dilution so that anyone can test it. Existing kits cannot detect the concentration below 50 mcg/l precisely. Their range limit is 50mg/l.

  • Precision
  • Target user
  • Why would people use our kit?
  • Limitations of detection  level of concentration detectable
  • How valid/valuable will the kit be?
  • Buy previous kits and test them out and compare them with our kit. Then check for 100mg/l or lower and see whether our kit is better at testing that level.
  • Find a layman and make him test a sample using our kit to check whether he can do it correctly.


  1. Who uses the kits?

State Government- Block or District level. The labs are either nonexistent or dysfunctional.Solution: Identify dysfunctional Labs in India through I.M.I.S (Integrated Management Information System). Find students who can help us- Jadavpur University, A. N. College, Patna.

  1.  What happens with the information?

Sample is collected and the results come to the blocks. The coordinator uploads the information in the I.M.I.S every three months. West Bengal for example has 650 Labs in 170 Blocks which are run by NGOs. N.R.C- National Resource Center- the water quality advisor has to answer questions and upload data.

  1.  How often does water need to be checked?

At least quarterly.

Important Points

  • Kit Sensitivity: cannot detect bigger differences in smaller concentration.
  • Precision: every time you test, the numbers have to be the same.
  • Low user interface.
  • Detection Limit: what the kit cannot respond to/detect.
  • Find out U.V range.
  • Divide contamination in different ranges to see how the kit performs in all the ranges.
  • Lassi making (an Indian yogurt based drink) – uses a process for oxidation which can be used purify drinking water from arsenic infested areas.
  • Reverse osmosis could also be used.
  • ALPHA (American Publication Handbook) Find out how to prepare high concentration of Arsenic. Then dilute it to fit your level of concentration. Test the same sample with all kits.

One thought on “Ayan’s Talk

  1. Pingback: When Arsenic Poisoned Its Water Sources, This Village Resorted To An Ancient Solution - And Won! » The Better India

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