ISLAMABAD While 'World Water Day is being observed today (March 22) to raise awareness about the importance of water quality alongside quantity of the resource in water management, Pakistan is still facing serious threat of arsenic contaminated water in different areas of country. The initiative was taken to observe World Water Day in the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992. Though analysts and researchers in this field believed that the geological phenomenon is one of the portent reasons behind the presence of arsenic in the water yet the researchers also sighted a dangerous factor that boiling does not remove arsenic from water. In connection with the World Water Day, TheNation interviewed a research group consisting of Japanese researcher and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). They were of the view that boiling did not remove arsenic from water, thus coagulation and filtration is used to remove arsenic and improve other water quality parameters, resulting in ancillary health benefits. However, the arsenic removal may not be optimal for removal of other compounds, notably phosphate and fluoride. The documented treatment methods for removal of the arsenic is filtration either using metal salts or lime softening, as it effectively removes many suspended and dissolved constituents from water besides arsenic iron, manganese and fluoride, said Dr Takeshi Komai, a geo-scientists and expert in arsenic research at GREEN/ AIST, Japan, while talking to TheNation. Other techniques are being used in the world for removal of the arsenic from drinking water, he said adding that significant reductions are also possible in odour, colour, and potential for trihalomethane formation. Urban Development and Environmental Research Centre (UNDERC) Japan, Dr Takeshi said, is introducing state of the art arsenic removal technology in Pakistan, which effectively reduces arsenic level from 1000 ppb to non detectable level less than 2 ppb. This research group compared different arsenic removal technologies being used worldwide and tested their effectiveness on raw water in the different cities of Pakistan. This technology was developed by a research group consisting of Japanese scientists and Dr M. Atiqur Rahman, JSPS Postdoctoral Research Fellow at (AIST), Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI), Japan. This research group consists of Dr Hideharu Morishita (Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) / Aichi Gakuin University (AGU), Dr. Tatsuro Sakano (Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan), Dr Takeshi Komai (Institute of Geo-Resource and Environment (GREEN), Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). Talking about some of techniques being used in the world for removal of arsenic from water, he said precipitation process cause dissolved arsenic to form a low solubility solid mineral, such as calcium arsenate and this solid can be removed through filtration. Various solid materials, he said, including iron and aluminium hydroxide flocs, have a strong affinity for dissolved arsenic. Stating about physical exclusion, Dr Takeshi said that some synthetic membranes are permeable to certain dissolved compounds but exclude others. These membranes can act as a molecular filter to remove dissolved arsenic, along with many other dissolved and particulate compounds. Fuji Arsenic Treatment Unit being introduced by this group is believed to be the effective technology, he maintained. Talking about prevention and control, Dr Atiqur Rahman, Executive Director, UNDERC, said that the most important remedial action was prevention of further exposure by providing safe drinking water. Control of arsenic is more complex where drinking water is obtained from many individual sources (such as hand-pumps and wells) as is common in rural areas, he said adding that low arsenic water is only needed for drinking and cooking. Arsenic-rich water can be used safely for laundry and bathing. Discrimination between high-arsenic and low-arsenic sources by painting the hand-pumps (e.g. red and green) can be an effective and low cost means to rapidly reduce exposure to arsenic when accompanied by effective health education. The most reliable water treatment processes for arsenic removal is distillation and reverse osmosis. Of the two processes, reverse osmosis devices are less costly, take less time, and use less energy than distillation devices. Reverse osmosis devices can be installed at the point of entry (for the entire household water supply) or for drinking water only.