News Archive

posted 04/14/03

Bollinger, Sachs, Rosenfield Visit Bangladesh Prime Minister
Earth Institute arsenic researchers in Bangladesh demonstrate field work

Jeffrey Sachs, Lee Bollinger, and others pose fro a photo in Bangladesh

Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, Jean Magnano Bollinger, and Allan Rosenfield, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health pose for a photograph in the village of Araihazar during their trip to Bangladesh.

President Lee C. Bollinger, Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute, and Allen Rosenfield, dean of the School of Public Health, recently visited Bangladesh, as well as India and Sri Lanka, to meet with government officials and tour sites with Columbia researchers working to make strides in the fields of health and economics. In Bangladesh, researchers from Columbia's School of Public Health, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Department of Economics are collaborating on a project to reduce the exposure of tens of millions of people to arsenic present in groundwater that is widely used in drinking and cooking. The Columbia delegates met with Bangladesh's Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia.

Alexander Van Geen, Doherty Senior Research Scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, accompanied Bollinger, Sachs and Rosenfield when meeting with Bangladeshi officials. Van Geen and his team have spent a great deal of time in Bangladesh working to figure out the most effective way of providing access to safe water. The Columbia team also developed a device, coined the needle sampler, that allows a well driller to collect a sample of groundwater and test it for arsenic before actually installing a well. This allows the well digger to determine if he has reached safe water or needs to go deeper.

a well driller holding a needle sampler used to collect water samples

Mohammed Feroz Miah, a well driller who has worked closely with Earth Institute researchers in Araihazar, Bangladesh, holds a needle sampler, used to collect water samples for arsenic testing prior to drilling.

Van Geen and his team's most recent papers show how the optimal depth for wells to provide clean water needs to be determined at the village scale. Their recent work has also shown that community wells should be a stronger focus of the public campaign to mitigate arsenic poisoning. The team is currently also working on a comprehensive strategic plan for arsenic mitigation.

For more information about the Earth Institute, as well as background on the arsenic mitigation project in Bangladesh, please visit

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is among the world’s leading academic centers for the integrated study of Earth, its environment, and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines—earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences—and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through its research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world’s poor.