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Keywords:

  • environmental health;
  • arsenic poisoning;
  • water;
  • Bangladesh;
  • legal geography;
  • proximity;
  • toxic torts

Tubewells have been so popular in rural Bangladesh that about 12 million have been installed, yielding water that is convenient, free and low in bacteria. But every fourth well is polluted with arsenic, with the result that millions of people are exposed to a severe environmental hazard. We explore this crisis from the viewpoint of legal geographies. The case of Sutradhar v NERC is taken as an exemplar of a debate about ‘proximity’ between scientific consultants and aid donors on the one hand, and their clients in poor countries on the other. In short, the article is about the desirability of bringing responsibility into line with supposed generosity.