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Powered by, one of the most popular daily English language newspapers in the United Arab Emirates.

Teenagers make water conservation priority as they try to raise awareness

08/28/2009 11:03 PM | By Sanya Nayeem, Deputy Readers Editor

Dubai: More than eight million people on the border of Bangladesh and India are gradually being poisoned.

When 16-year-old photography enthusiast Aman Ghose discovered that arsenic water was the only source of drinking water in the North 24 Parganas region, he was spurred into action.

Video: Taking water for granted

The Dubai International Academy (DIA) student learned about the situation from social workers he knew in the region.

He said: "At a depth of 40 metres, water is toxic. But at 100 metres, there is pure drinking water. To get to it, all you need is hand pumps, which cost about Dh1,000 [each]."

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), long-term exposure causes arsenic poisoning, which forces skin pigmentation to change and thicken, and can even lead to cancers of various organs. So how can it be stopped?

The website of Water For People, an international non-profit organisation, states that one clean water source is able to provide pure drinking water for approximately 400 people in rural areas.

It was all the information Ghose needed to make a difference.

He visited the region and sold jute bags to raise funds for a hand pump, ensuring that a small village had access to potable water - arsenic-free.

Meanwhile, back in school, in a classroom across the hall from Ghose, 14-year-old Edward Pollock was starting a similar campaign for water conservation. He was inspired by the Gulf News Wipe Out Waste (WoW) campaign.

In a bid to create awareness about water use and sanitation, the Scottish DIA pupil collaborated with WaterAid, an international charity organisation based in the UK, and raised funds for global causes.

He said: "A simple bake sale at our school helped raise £747 (Dh4,598), which we didn't expect at all. It was amazing because £470 (Dh2,848) helped pay for a public water point in an urban slum, and provided water for to up to 1,000 families."

Eager to spread the word, Pollock participated in a school exhibition in March, where he discussed concerns and highlighted the practices of WaterAid.

He said: "I presented a video about how, in some countries, doctors treat patients even though they don't have enough water available to wash their hands! People were really shaken up by it."

Ghose, was a little more interested than the rest. He introduced himself to his junior at the exhibition and the two young eco-warriors kicked off a storm of ideas and ambitious plans centering on water preservation.

Together, Ghose and Pollock are now organising a full-fledged school carnival, with attractions such as a paintball arena, games, competitions and a fundraiser.

Planned to coincide with March 22 [2010] or World Water Day, the boys are deep in preparations and talks with their school management to make the event bigger and better.

Ghose said: "Depending on how much we raise, we would like to donate the money to several water-related causes, including North 24 Paraganas and WaterAid."

Along with raising funds, creating awareness is a vital part of the event for Pollock.

He said: "Water is such an important resource and it has become a global crisis. It's vital for us that people become aware of this and their money goes to the right place."

Their enthusiasm and altruism could be foreign for most teenagers - so how do they stay motivated despite their busy teen lifestyle?

For Ghose, it's all about making it personal.

He said: "Initiatives like ours start out as an assignment or project - something you have to do. But when you really think about issues affecting people, or visit places where you see people suffering, it has a huge impact."

He added: "You don't have to be a particular age or nationality to make a difference. When you think you could be one of those people, you naturally want to help out."

The key is to understand that nothing is impossible.

Have your say
What do you think about the initiative taken by these teenagers? Have you personally tried to help anyone in a similar manner? Share your experiences with us at or fill in the comments form below.

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