NORTHERN IRELAND: Purifying water in India

A team of scientists at Queen's University in Belfast will lead a research and training programme to prevent groundwater poisoning in India. More than 70 million people in Eastern India and Bangladesh experience involuntary exposure to arsenic from consuming water and rice, including farmers who have to use contaminated groundwater for minor irrigation schemes.

It is estimated that for every random sample of 100 people in the Bengal Delta, at least one person will be near death as a result of arsenic poisoning while five in 100 will experience other symptoms.

Last year, Queen's scientists created low-cost technology that provides arsenic-free water to affected areas. The technology was developed by a team of European and Indian engineers led by the university's Dr Bhaskar Sengupta.

Queen's was announced as a provider of training to thousands of people who will learn how to use the equipment and improve environmental conditions. Dr Harold Johnston, Director of Education of Civil Engineering at Queen's, also helped develop the training programme in Kolkata and Jamshedpur.

The programme is supported by the British Council under the Development Partnerships in Higher Education Programme. Sengupta, who is co-ordinating the project, said the initiative would help train more than 1,000 people over the next three years in Eastern India in a novel chemical-free arsenic removal method.

"The training programme developed by Queen's is the only method which is eco-friendly, easy to use and deliverable to the rural community user at an affordable cost."