Environmental Geology

, Volume 56, Issue 8, pp 1687–1695 | Cite as

Near surface lithology and spatial variation of arsenic in the shallow groundwater: southeastern Bangladesh

  • Mohammad A. Hoque
  • Aftab A. Khan
  • M. Shamsudduha
  • Muhammad S. Hossain
  • Tariqul Islam
  • Shahid H. Chowdhury
Original Article


This study investigated the relationship between near-surface lithology and the spatial variability of As concentrations using sediment grain-size analysis and electromagnetic induction survey in the southeast Bangladesh. It has been observed that the aquifers overlain by finer sediments have higher concentrations of As in groundwater, whereas As concentrations are remarkably low in aquifers having permeable sandy materials or thinner silt/clay layer at the surface. The near-surface lithology acts as a controlling factor for spatial distributions of groundwater As within the very shallow depths (<15 m). Shallow alluvial aquifers can provide low-As drinking water in many areas of the country when tube wells are properly installed after investigation of the overlying near-surface sediment attributes and hydraulic properties.


Bangladesh Shallow groundwater Surface lithology Arsenic Spatial variation 



The research work was supported by the “Bose Centre for Advanced Study and Research in Natural Sciences”, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Authors are grateful to Dr. A. van Geen from LDEO, Columbia University for his kind permission to use the EM31 equipment. We acknowledge the comments and suggestions made by Mr. Yacob Rahim on the initial version of the manuscript. We thank Dr. Prosun Bhattacharya and an anonymous reviewer for their constructive comments and suggestions that helped to improve this manuscript.


  1. Acharyya SK, Lahiri S, Raymahashay BC, Bhowmik A (2000) Arsenic toxicity of groundwater of the Bengal basin in India and Bangladesh: the role of quaternary stratigraphy and Holocene sea-level fluctuation. Environ Geol 39:1127–1137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahmed KM, Bhattacharya P, Hasan MA, Akhter SH, Alam SMM, Bhuyian MAH, Imam MB, Khan AA, Sracek O (2004) Arsenic enrichment in groundwater of the alluvial aquifers in Bangladesh: an overview. Appl Geochem 19:181–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aziz Z, van Geen A, Stute M, Versteeg R, Horneman A, Zheng Y, Goodbred S, Steckler M, Weinman B, Gavrieli I, Hoque MA, Shamsudduha M, Ahmed KM (2008) Impact of local recharge on arsenic concentrations in shallow aquifers inferred from the electromagnetic conductivity of soils in Araihazar, Bangladesh. Water Resour Res (in press)Google Scholar
  4. Bakr MA (1977) Quaternary geomorphic evolution of the Brahmanbaria-Noakhali area, Comilla and Noakhali Districts, Bangladesh Record of GSB, Vol 1 / Part 2. Geological Survey of Bangladesh (GSB), Dhaka, pp 48Google Scholar
  5. BGS, DPHE (2001) Arsenic contamination of groundwater in Bangladesh. In: Kinniburgh DG, Smedley PL (eds) BGS Technical Report WC/00/19 British Geological Surve, Keyworth, pp 267Google Scholar
  6. Bhattacharya P, Chatterjee D, Jacks G (1997) Occurrence of arsenic-contaminated groundwater in alluvial aquifers from the Delta Plains, eastern India: options for safe drinking water supply. Water Resour Dev 13:79–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burgess WG, Burren M, Perrin J, Ahmed KM (2002) Constraints on the sustainable development of arsenic-bearing aquifers in southern Bangladesh. Part 1: A conceptual model of arsenic in the aquifer. In: Hiscock KM, Rivett MO, Davison RM (eds) Sustainable groundwater development. Special Publication 193 Geological Society, London, pp 145–163Google Scholar
  8. Coleman JM (1969) Brahmaputra river: channel processes and sedimentation. Sediment Geol 3:129–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cuthbert M, Burgess WG, Connell L (2002) Constraints on the sustainable development of arsenic-bearing aquifers in southern Bangladesh. Part 2: Preliminary models of arsenic variability in groundwater. In: Hiscock KM, Rivett MO, Davison RM (eds) Sustainable groundwater development. Special Publication 193 Geological Society, London, pp 165–179Google Scholar
  10. Dhar RK, Biswas BK, Samanta G, Mandal BK, Chakraborti D, Roy S, Jafar A, Islam A, Ara G, Kabir S, Khan AW, Ahmed SA, Hadi SA (1997) Groundwater arsenic calamity in Bangladesh. Curr Sci 73:48–59Google Scholar
  11. DSC (1996) Electrical resistivity survey in Lakshmipur, Raipur, Ramganj and Chatkhil Thana of south-southeast coastal belt of Bangladesh Delta Study Centre(DSC), Department of Geology. University of Dhaka, Dhaka, p 57Google Scholar
  12. Gaus I, Kinniburgh DG, Talbot JC, Webster R (2003) Geostatistical analysis of arsenic concentration in groundwater in Bangladesh using disjunctive kriging. Environ Geol 44:939–948CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Geonics Ltd (1992) EM31 operating manual (for models with two digital meters). Geonics Limited, MississaugaGoogle Scholar
  14. Goodbred SL Jr, Kuehl SA (2000) The significance of large sediment supply, active tectonism, and eustasy on margin sequence development: late Quaternary stratigraphy and evolution of the Ganges–Brahmaputra delta. Sediment Geol 133:227–248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hasan MA, Ahmed KM, Sracek O, Bhattacharya P, von Brömssen M, Broms S, Fogelstrom J, Mazumder ML, Jacks G (2007) Arsenic in shallow groundwater of Bangladesh: investigations from three different physiographic settings. Hydrogeol J 15:1507–1522. doi: 10.1007/s10040-007-0203-z CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Horneman A, van Geen A, Kent DV, Mathe PE, Zheng Y, Dhar RK, O’Connell SM, Hoque MA, Aziz Z, Shamsudduha M, Seddique AA, Ahmed KM (2004) Decoupling of As and Fe release to Bangladesh groundwater under reducing conditions: Part I. Evidence from sediment profiles. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 68:3459–3473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Khan AA, Hoque MA (2002) Quaternary Paleo-geography and Geohazard Scenario of the Bengal Delta of Bangladesh. Oriental Geographer 46:1–16Google Scholar
  18. Khan AA, Akhter SH, Ahmed KM, Hasan MA, Khan AH, Hoque S (2001) The causes of arsenic contamination in groundwater and its remediation for safe water: a case study in Laxmipur Thana. Laxmipur DistrictTechnical Report Ministry of Science and Technology, GoB, Dhaka Google Scholar
  19. Khan AA, Hoque MA, Ali M, Hassan MA (2003) Morpho-tectonic depressions and early Holocene land–ocean interaction for transition metals adsorption in sediment and groundwater contamination—a case study from the Bengal delta, Bangladesh. J De-Physique IV 107:691–694CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lindsay JF, Holiday DW, Hulbert AG (1991) Sequence stratigraphy and the evolution of the Ganges–Brahmaputra complex. Am Assoc Petroleum Geol Bull 75:1233–1254Google Scholar
  21. McArthur JM, Ravenscroft P, Safiullah S, Thirlwall MF (2001) Arsenic in groundwater: testing pollution mechanisms for sedimentary aquifers in Bangladesh. Water Resour Res 37:109–117CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McNeill JD (1990) Use of electromagnetic methods for ground-water studies. In: Ward SN (ed) Geotechnical and environmental geophysics: I Review and Tutorial Society of Exploration Geophysicists, Tulsa, pp 191–218Google Scholar
  23. Miall AD (1996) The Geology of fluvial deposits: sedimentary facies, basin analysis, and petroleum geology, 1st edn. Springer, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  24. Morgan JP, McIntire WG (1959) Quaternary geology of the Bengal Basin, East Pakistan and India. Geol Soc Am Bull 70:319–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mukherjee AB, Bhattacharya P (2001) Arsenic in groundwater in the Bengal Delta Plain: slow poisoning in Bangladesh. Environ Rev 9:189–220CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nickson R, McArthur JM, Burgess WG, Ahmed KM, Ravenscroft P, Rahman M (1998) Arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh groundwater. Nature 395:338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nickson R, McArthur JM, Ravenscroft P, Burgess WG, Ahmed KM (2000) Mechanism of arsenic release to groundwater, Bangladesh and West Bengal. Appl Geochem 15:403–413CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rashid H (1991) Geography of Bangladesh, 2nd edn. The University Press Limited, DhakaGoogle Scholar
  29. Ravenscroft P (2003) Overview of the hydrogeology of Bangladesh. In: Rahman AA, Ravenscroft P (eds) Groundwater resources and development in Bangladesh—background to the arsenic crisis, agricultural potential and the environment, pp 43–86Google Scholar
  30. Shamsudduha M, Uddin A (2007) Quaternary shoreline shifting and hydrogeologic influence on the distribution of groundwater arsenic in aquifers of the Bengal basin. J Asian Earth Sci 31:177–194. doi: 10.1016/j.jseaes.2007.07.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Smith AH, Lingas EO, Rahman M (2000) Contamination of drinking water by arsenic in Bangladesh: a public health emergency. Bull World Health Organ 78:1093–1103Google Scholar
  32. Stute M, Zheng Y, Schlosser P, Horneman A, Dhar RK, Hoque MA, Seddique AA, Shamsudduha M, Ahmed KM, van Geen A (2007) Increase in arsenic concentrations with groundwater age in shallow Bangladesh aquifers. Water Resour Res 43. doi: 10.1029/2005WR004499
  33. van Geen A, Ahsan H, Horneman AH, Dhar RK, Zheng Y, Hussain I, Ahmed KM, Gelman A, Stute M, Simpson HJ, Wallace S, Small C, Parvez F, Slavkovich V, LoIacono NJ, Becker M, Cheng Z, Momotaj H, Shahnewaz M, Seddique AA, Graziano JH (2002) Promotion of well-switching to mitigate the current arsenic crisis in Bangladesh. Bull World Health Organ 80:732–737Google Scholar
  34. van Geen A, Zheng Y, Versteeg R, Stute M, Horneman A, Dhar R, Steckler M, Gelman A, Small C, Ahsan H, Graziano J, Hussein I, Ahmed KM (2003) Spatial variability of arsenic in 6000 tube wells in a 25 km2 area of Bangladesh. Water Resour Res 39:1140–1155. doi: 10.1029/2002WR001617 Google Scholar
  35. van Geen A, Protus T, Cheng Z, Horneman A, Seddique AA, Hoque MA, Ahmed KM (2004) Testing Groundwater for Arsenic in Bangladesh before Installing a Well. Environ Sci Technol 38:6783–6789. doi: 10.1021/es049323b CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. van Geen A, Aziz Z, Horneman A, Weinman B, Dhar RK, Zheng Y, Goodbred S, Versteeg R, Seddique AA, Hoque MA, Ahmed KM (2006) Preliminary evidence of a link between surface soil properties and the arsenic content of shallow groundwater in Bangladesh. J Geochem Explor 88:157–161. doi: 10.1016/j.gexplo.2005.08.106 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. von Brömssen M, Jakariya M, Bhattacharya P, Ahmed KM, Hasan MA, Sracek O, Jonsson L, Lundell L, Jacks G (2007) Targeting low-arsenic aquifers in Matlab Upazila, southeastern Bangladesh. Sci Total Environ 379:121–132. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2006.06.028 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Zheng Y, Stute M, van Geen A, Gavrieli I, Dhar R, Simpson HJ, Schlosser P, Ahmed KM (2004) Redox control of arsenic mobilization in Bangladesh groundwater. Appl Geochem 19:201–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mohammad A. Hoque
    • 1
    • 2
  • Aftab A. Khan
    • 3
  • M. Shamsudduha
    • 4
  • Muhammad S. Hossain
    • 3
  • Tariqul Islam
    • 3
  • Shahid H. Chowdhury
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Petroleum and Georesources EngineeringShahjalal University of Science and TechnologySylhetBangladesh
  2. 2.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of GeologyUniversity of DhakaDhakaBangladesh
  4. 4.Department of GeographyUniversity College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations