Arsenic Victims in Cambodia

By Sun Narin

So far, there are thousands of people living in some posh pockets of Kolkata and its northern, eastern and southern suburbs are drinking water that could make them seriously ill and prone to severe long-term health problems. According to the comprehensive “chemical quality analysis” conducted by the state Water Investigation Department, arsenic and iron content well beyond the permissible limits has been detected in groundwater.

Arsenic contaminated water has also existed in Cambodia where there is some 42 per cent of Cambodian living in rural area across the country can have access to clean water while people living in the city and urban area are able to use safe drinking water. Arsenic water in Cambodia can be seen mostly in the well.


Mao Saray, director of the department of Rural Water Supply, said that there are seven provinces among 24 provinces in the country facing the using of arsenic water in which 1607 villages along the river, adding that there were 10,0000 to 150000 people who are using the well with over limited standard arsenic water.

A lot of people in Kandal province are using the arsenic water in the well and hundreds of villagers are affected with the disease and several were dead. In a family whose members are being affected by the arsenic disease, Mrs Khut Ngan Chur (51), with the ulcer on the legs and arms, said that she has been with this disease for along time, but she did not recognize it and did not know what to do. She added that her brother and nephew died of this disease few years ago after they have the spots on the body for a long time and had their legs cut. Mr Vern Vin (17), another her nephew who has the many spots on the body, is also affected by the arsenic water.

He said: “I am always hurting, especially in the hot sun.” The aunt said that: “People here have just known from the health officials, but they just use the water because they don’t have much water.”

Mr Mao Saray said that the medical people have not identified the disease yet, but they suspect of the arsenic water cancer disease. Cambodian people have been using arsenic water for more than ten years without realizing it.

Arsenic substance in water was found in Cambodia 2001. Arsenic is the chemical substance stemming from nature. It is in the water, land, air, rock, plant and animals. When people absorb it from 3 to 10 years, they can get the diseases including thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, numbness in hands and feet, blindness and it can lead to other cancers.

Mrs Chhai Ly Sokha, the villager said that has two brothers dead of arsenic. Nowadays, she and other 3 members of her family are being with arsenic disease.

She said: “I feel that I regret of drinking that water at that time because it is said that the ground water is sanitary and then I just drink it, but now it is over because I have that disease already.” Now, Chhai Ly Sokha’s family stopped drinking well water and use river water instead.

The Ministry of health in cooperation with the UNICEF and other relevant organizations are helping people with the clean drinking water by using tap water, rain tub and water filters. Mr Mao Saray said that, the ministry of Rural Development is planning to provide clean water to people at least 50 percent in 2015 and 100 percent in 2025.

According to the report from the scientists, there around 100 million people in Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan and Vietnam are using arsenic water and causing thousands of people dead every year.


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