The Bangladesh Consortium for Arsenic Management in Agriculture and the Environment (BCAMAE)


Background: The Bangladesh Arsenic Crisis

The Ganges-Meghna-Brahmaputra groundwater aquifer is contaminated with arsenic through a natural geologic phenomenon. This aquifer is the sole drinking water source for approximately 110 million people from Bangladesh and West Bengal, India. The map, developed from analyses by the British Geological Survey, illustrates the major contaminated areas of Bangladesh . This map provides an indication of the high spatial variability in arsenic concentration at both the national and regional levels. In Bangladesh, approximately 60% of the citizens are at risk, due to the potential ingestion of arsenic contaminated water. Land and agricultural sustainability are threatened due to irrigation with arsenic contaminated water. Arsenic in the soil and uptake by crops are a potential source of arsenic in the food chain.


To develop strategies to minimize arsenic hazard in agriculture and the environment through soil, water and crop management, and for the assurance of agricultural sustainability, food security and health.

Consortium partners:

Bangladesh Institute
International Center
  • Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute
  • Bangladesh Rice Research Institute
  • Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture
  • Soil Research Development Institute
  • Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute
  • Bangladesh Agriculture University
  • Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agriculture University,
  • Sher-e-Bangla Agriculture University
  • IFDC (International Center for Soil Fertility and Agriculture Development)
  • CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center)
  • Cornell University, NY, USA
  • Texas A&M University, TX, USA

Consortium Background:

The consortium was initiated in 2002 to address issues of arsenic in the food chain, with emphases on flooded rice culture. The initial participants were CIMMYT, Cornell University, and Texas A&M University. National partners in Bangladesh included BARI, BRRI, BINA and BAU. The objectives were to: (i) enhance the capacity of Bangladesh partners to address issues of arsenic in the food chain, and (ii) to assess the concentration and geographic extent of arsenic contamination of soil, irrigation tubewells, and rice straw and grain, in the diverse agroecological zones of Bangladesh. Currently, more attention is being given to water, soil, and crop management alternatives to minimize arsenic hazard in agriculture. Central to the program are the BCCT laboratory and the Graduate Fellows Program.

BCCT Laboratory

The Bangladesh BCCT (BARI/CIMMYT/Cornell/TAMU) Arsenic Laboratory was established in 2004 and is located at Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI). This laboratory serves several functions in support of project activities including:

  • training and troubleshooting in arsenic analysis in support of partner laboratories

  • coordination of quality control/quality assurance (QA/QC) for arsenic analyses

  • training and analytical support for the project graduate fellows

  • support of project analytical activities providing a home base for visiting scientists from the partner institutions, and

  • support of project analytical activities
Bangladesh Agricultural Research

Summary of Major Research Findings

  • Analyses of 400 geo-referenced sites across Bangladesh have indicated that soil arsenic concentrations are generally higher is south and south central Bangladesh, but because of spatial variability and localized moderate to high arsenic concentrations, areas of central, northwest and northeast Bangladesh are also impacted.
  • arsenic concentrations

  • Comparisons of surface soil arsenic concentrations with background and subsurface arsenic concentrations show that arsenic concentrations of surface soils have increased due to irrigation with arsenic contaminated water. Continued use of irrigation water at the current level will detrimentally impact land and agricultural sustainability in arsenic affected areas. In some areas, soil arsenic concentrations have not increased, indicating that the complex factors impacting arsenic balance are not fully understood.
  • There is generally a significant positive correlation between soil arsenic and rice grain arsenic concentrations; however, at some sites, high rice grain arsenic concentrations were observed at low soil and irrigation water arsenic concentrations. Understanding the cause of this variability is important for the effective management of arsenic in diverse agro-ecological settings.
  • Initial data has indicated reduction in plant growth at high soil arsenic concentration.
  • Soil Arsenic Concentrations at the Tubewell

    Soil Arsenic Concentrations

  • Soil arsenic concentrations at the tubewell command area are highly variable, with high spatial variability, due primarily to the water distribution system within the tubewell command area. These results have important implications to the design of water management systems to minimize arsenic hazard.
  • Significant differences in tolerance and uptake of soil arsenic by rice have been observed. These genetic differences are still not fully understood and have not yet been effectively integrated into arsenic management systems.