Department Environmental Social Sciences

Participatory Action for Long-Term Arsenic-Safe Water (PACT)


PACT in brief. This health related behaviour change research focuses on the prevention of arsenicosis in Bihar, India. Many arsenic mitigation options exist, but most of the community based infrastructure is not used. Combined, intervention on psychological ownership and habitual behaviour can lead to a long-lasting functionality and sustainable use of the safe-drinking water infrastructure. The effectiveness and the way how these concepts change peoples behaviour through psycho-social factors are subject to this research. The project takes place in arsenic-affected areas of Bihar (India).


Arsenic. Arsenic-contaminated water is consumed by app. 100 million people worldwide, including Bihar (India) where this project takes place. Arsenic has severe health consequences: it is an invisible and taste- & odorless poison in water and food, that not only affects health in the long-term (e.g. cancer), but as well in the short term: e.g. skin-related diseases. It affects health severely and people suffering from Arsenicosis are often psycho-socially marginalized (e.g. stigmatization; Sen & Biswas, 2012), due to their visible symptoms. But nevertheless, arsenic is not necessarily well known in the population of areas with affected groundwater.

For more information on arsenic, please refer to the WHO fact-sheet.

Geogenic contamination of groundwater

In  some  groundwaters,  arsenic  and  fluoride  can  naturally  reach  concentrations  that  are hazardous  to  human  health  if  geological  and  geochemical  conditions   favour   the   release   of these  contaminants. More information can be found on the groundwater quality information management system on geogenic contaminants (GAP) of Eawag.

SDG 6 - NRDWP. With SDG 6typo3/ - Sustainable Development Goal 6 – the UN aims to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. This goes hand in hand with some of the initiatives of the Indian central government: The national health plan by the central government of Indiatypo3/typo3/ covers as well the aspect of drinking water with the national rural drinking water programme (NRDWP), the government intends to provide every person living in rural areas with safe water […] on a sustainable basis”.



6.1 By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all.


6.3 By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials (…) .


The National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) is aimed at providing every person in rural India with adequate safe water for drinking, cooking and other domestic basic needs on a sustainable basis. Safe water is to be readily and conveniently accessible at all times and in all situations and therefore, the scheme focuses on the creation of the infrastructure.


Theory-based and evidence-based behaviour change interventions can successfully promote the immediate adoption of existing arsenic-safe water infrastructure (up to 40% greater adoption than controls) by the public, as shown in a previous study in Bangladesh.
Less is known, however, about behaviour change in the long term. Thus, this project investigates two key concepts to facilitate long-term adoption of mitigation options: psychological ownership (this is my mitigation option or this is our mitigation option) and habitual use (to associate water-collection consistently with arsenic-safe schemes) in a Cluster-Randomized Control Trial (C-RCT) in Bihar (India).


After a formative research phase, using mixed-methods a 2x2 cluster-randomized factorial trial will be conducted to test the effects of ownership- and habit-promoting interventions.


The effectiveness of the interventions will be determined by comparison of groups at midline and endline surveys. The main outcome at the cluster-level is functionality of the water-schemes and the main outcome at the individual level is the collection of arsenic-safe drinking water. Secondary outcomse are, psychological ownersip and self-reported habit strength to collect arsenic-safe water. Furthermore, we will assess context variables and the psychosocial mechanisms of the intervention using questionnaires.