Case Studies

Establishing Water Businesses in Arsenic Affected Areas

April 2016 | Bangladesh

Zulekha was 22 when she discovered warts growing on her hands. Mistaking her skin lesions for leprosy, family members started to avoid contact with her, and she was barred from attending religious and cultural functions. When she started to lose hair and suffer from diarrhoea, vomiting and terrible stomach pain, she consulted a doctor who informed her that she had arsenic poisoning. The tube well she used for drinking water was infected with arsenic, so Zulekha had to travel long distances to collect clean water for her home.

Even though there have been efforts by the Government to tackle contamination, a recent study by Human Rights Watch found that nearly 20 million Bangladeshis are still drinking poisoned water with high levels of arsenic, which kills an estimated 43,000 people each year. According to the World Bank, the arsenic crisis has already cost the Bangladesh economy more than $22 Billion loss in GDP due to its debilitating health effects.

“We understand that there is a number of organisations who cannot afford legal services and therefore have no access to right legal advice and on some occasions no access to justice. We hope that through iProbono, they will be able to find competent and keen lawyers and, we are glad to be one of them.”
Kasif Ahsan
Barrister, Sadat Sarwat and Associates

Drinkwell is an organisation which is on a mission to transform the world’s water crisis into entrepreneurial opportunity by establishing local water businesses in arsenic-affected areas. They provide affected villagers with unique water filtration technology and the appropriate business tools to sell clean water, consequently improving health outcomes as well as generating income and jobs. Thus, the arsenic affected tube wells which were initially a source of stigma and hardship are converted into local profitable enterprises which employ local villagers. Drinkwell aims to save 200 million people at risk from drinking arsenic contaminated water and provide villagers with an opportunity of a profitable as well as healthy future.

In order to expand their impact in Bangladesh, Drinkwell required support from lawyers to create appropriate franchise models that would benefit the rural population. iProbono’s member lawyers from Sadat Sarwat and Associates provided end-to-end support in both English and Bangla so that the know-how to purify the water could be transferred to local people.

By assisting Drinkwell, iProbono and the lawyers at Sadat Sarwat and Associates helped the organisation to expand their operations in Bangladesh, decrease arsenic related diseases and provide alternative income opportunities to rural communities all over the country.

Sabel Nawaz, a Barrister for Sadat Sarwat and Associates said, “We were moved by the nature of the project, its positive impact on the population and the plight of those who do not have access to clean, arsenic free water.”

Learn more about Drinkwell.

Name changed to protect privacy

Join Us
Civil Society Organisations

If you are in need of pro bono legal assistance

Register with us
Legal Community

If you are interested in providing pro bono legal services

Join our network