Soil Minerals Serving as Source of Arsenic in Alluvial Aquifers of Holocene: A Case Study from Indus Delta, Sindh, Pakistan

  • Adnan Khan Karachi University
  • Viqar Husain
  • Suhail Anjum
Keywords: Arsenic, sediments, alluvium aquifers, Holocene, Indus delta, Pakistan


Groundwater arsenic contamination is recently reported in the alluvial aquifers of Indus deltaic plain. Since the source of arsenic is believed to be natural as widely reported in other deltaic aquifers of same age (Holocene), it is imperative to evaluate the soil characteristics for identifying the sources of arsenic and its mobilization mechanism. For this purpose, 49 soil samples were collected from near aquifer sites in all three talukas of Tando Muhammad Khan district. Visual analysis revealed that soil is light grey in color with fine texture ranging from silt to silty-clay. The X-ray diffraction study reveals the occurrence of quartz, mica and clay minerals in all collected soil samples. Plagioclase feldspar is second dominant mineral group in the order of albite (calcian) >albite>albite (disordered) = anorthite > anorthite (sodian) = anorthite (disordered). Calcite is major carbonate mineral which is detected in 40 out of total 49 soil samples. The occurrence of other occasional minerals includes amesite, nitro-calcite, rutile and zinnwaldite. The frequency of micaceous minerals in collected samples is in the order of clinochlore> polylithionite> Biotite > phlogopite> muscovite. Polylithionite is found in about half of the total soil samples, where most of the aquifers contain arsenic >20 μg/L (Khan, 2014). Phlogopite is observed in seven soil samples which are also associated with clinochlore. On the other hand, biotite is found in 14 sediment samples collected from Tando Muhammad Khan and Bhulri Shah Karim talukas and muscovite occurs in three soil samples of Tando Muhammad Khan taluka. It can be concluded from present study that fine-grained Phyllosilicates have strong affinity for arsenic retention. These sediments are important source of arsenic Indus delta and other deltaic plains of the world.


Download data is not yet available.


Acharyya, S. (2005) ‘Arsenic levels in groundwater from Quaternary alluvium in the Ganga Plain and the Bengal Basin, Indian subcontinent: insights into influence of stratigraphy’, Gondwana Research, 8(1), pp. 55–66. Available at: (Accessed: 15 March 2019).

Acharyya, S. K. et al. (2000) ‘Arsenic toxicity of groundwater in parts of the Bengal basin in India and Bangladesh: the role of Quaternary stratigraphy and Holocene sea-level fluctuation’, Environmental Geology, 39(10), pp. 1127–1137. doi: 10.1007/s002540000107.

Acharyya, S., Lahiri, S. and Raymahashay, B. (2000) ‘Arsenic toxicity of groundwater in parts of the Bengal basin in India and Bangladesh: the role of Quaternary stratigraphy and Holocene sea-level fluctuation’, Applied Geochemistry, 15(4), pp. 55–56. Available at: (Accessed: 4 March 2019).

Ahmed, K. (2004) Management of the groundwater arsenic disaster in Bangladesh, In Natural Arsenic in Groundwater: Proceedings of the Pre-Congress Workshop" Natural Arsenic in Groundwater", 32nd International Geological Congress, Florence, Italy,. Available at:,+and+the+wise+use+of+the+water+sources+that+are+low+in+arsenic+(Ahmed+et+al.,+2004)+&ots=G15JSfiNso&sig=HH4KoZhor-RFzVc_quriYoQKFVM (Accessed: 13 March 2019).

Akai, J. et al. (2004) ‘Mineralogical and geomicrobiological investigations on groundwater arsenic enrichment in Bangladesh’, Applied geochemistry. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Akai, J. and Anawar, H. (2013) ‘Mineralogical approach in elucidation of contamination mechanism for toxic trace elements in the environment: special reference to arsenic contamination in’, Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Akhtar, M. et al. (2012) ‘Geological Map of Sindh, Pakistan’.

Alizai, A. et al. (2012) ‘Clay mineral variations in Holocene terrestrial sediments from the Indus Basin’, Quaternary Research , 77, pp. 368–381. Available at: (Accessed: 4 January 2019).

Anawar, H. et al. (2002) ‘Arsenic poisoning in groundwater: health risk and geochemical sources in Bangladesh’, Environment International. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Anawar, H. et al. (2003) ‘Geochemical occurrence of arsenic in groundwater of Bangladesh: sources and mobilization processes’, Journal of Geochemical. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Berg, M. et al. (2008) ‘Hydrological and sedimentary controls leading to arsenic contamination of groundwater in the Hanoi area, Vietnam: the impact of iron-arsenic ratios, peat, river bank’, Chemical geology, 249(1–2), pp. 91–112. Available at: (Accessed: 5 March 2019).

Bhattacharya, P., Chatterjee, D. and Jacks, G. (1997) ‘Occurrence of Arsenic-contaminatedGroundwater in Alluvial Aquifers from Delta Plains, Eastern India: Options for Safe Drinking Water Supply’, International Journal of Water Resources Development, 13(1), pp. 79–92. doi: 10.1080/07900629749944.

Bhumbla, D. and Keefer, R. (1994) ‘Arsenic in the environment’. Available at: (Accessed: 28 February 2019).

Bockheim, J. (1982) ‘Properties of a chronosequence of ultraxerous soils in the Trans-Antarctic Mountains’, Geoderma, 28(3–4), pp. 239–255. Available at: (Accessed: 13 March 2019).

Boyle, R. and Jonasson, I. (1973) ‘The geochemistry of arsenic and its use as an indicator element in geochemical prospecting’, Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 2(3), pp. 251–296. Available at: (Accessed: 13 March 2019).

Campbell, I. and Claridge, G. (1982) ‘The influence of moisture on the development of soils of the cold deserts of Antarctica’, Geoderma , 28(3–4), pp. 221–238. Available at: (Accessed: 13 March 2019).

Chakraborty, S. et al. (2007) ‘Adsorption of arsenite and arsenate onto muscovite and biotite mica’, Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, 309(2), pp. 392–401. Available at: (Accessed: 4 January 2019).

Chakrapani, G. J. et al. (1995) ‘Size characteristics and mineralogy of suspended sediments of the Ganges river, India’, Environmental Geology, 25(3), pp. 192–196. doi: 10.1007/BF00768548.

Chilvers, D. and Peterson, P. (1987) ‘Global cycling of arsenic’, Lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic in the environment, , pp. 279–301.

Chowdhury, T., Basu, G. and Mandal, B. (1999) ‘Arsenic poisoning in the Ganges delta’, Nature. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Foley, N. and Ayuso, R. (2008) ‘Mineral sources and transport pathways for arsenic release in a coastal watershed, USA’, Geochemistry: Exploration, Environment, Analysis, , 8(1), pp. 59–75. Available at: (Accessed: 28 February 2019).

Garcia-Sanchez, A., Moyano, A. and Mayorga, P. (2005) ‘High arsenic contents in groundwater of central Spain’, Environmental geology, 47(6), pp. 847–854. Available at: (Accessed: 5 March 2019).

Garlick, G. and Wedepohl, K. (1969) Handbook of geochemistry. Available at: (Accessed: 15 March 2019).
Garrison, R. (1981) ‘Diagenesis of oceanic carbonate sediments: a review of the DSDP perspective’. Available at: (Accessed: 13 March 2019).

Giosan, L. et al. (2006) ‘On the control of climate-and human-modulated fluvial sediment delivery on river delta development: The Indus’, AGU Fall Meeting. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

HÉRY, M. et al. (2010) ‘Arsenic release and attenuation in low organic carbon aquifer sediments from West Bengal’, Geobiology, 8(2), pp. 155–168. doi: 10.1111/j.1472-4669.2010.00233.x.

Hiltbold, A. E., Hajek, B. F. and Buchanan, G. A. (1974) ‘Distribution of arsenic in soil profiles after repeated applications of MSMA’, Weed Science, 22(3), pp. 272–275. Available at: (Accessed: 28 February 2019).

Husain, V. et al. (2012) ‘Natural arsenic in groundwater of Indus delta in the province of Sindh, Pakistan’, Understanding the Geological and Medical Interface of Arsenic, As 2012 - 4th International Congress: Arsenic in the Environment, (November 2014). Available at:

Ishiga, H. (2000) ‘Geological constraints on arsenic contamination of groundwater in Bangladesh’, Arsenic Contamination Forum. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).
Kazmi, A. (1984) ‘Geology of the Indus delta’, Marine geology and oceanography of Arabian Sea and coastal Pakistan , pp. 71–84.

Khan, A. et al. (2014) ‘Arsenic contamination status in the Holocene alluvial aquifers of Indus Deltaic Flood Plain: a case study of Tando Ghulam Hyder Taluka, Sindh, Pakistan’, Econ-Environ-Geol.Org, 5(2), pp. 1–10. Available at:

Khan, A. et al. (2017) ‘Groundwater arsenic contamination in shallow alluvial aquifers of Bhulri Shah Karim taluka , Tando Muhammad Khan’, International Journal of Ground Sediment & Water Vol., 5(2), pp. 217–244. Available at:

Mailloux, B. et al. (2009) ‘Microbial mineral weathering for nutrient acquisition releases arsenic’, Appl. Environ. Microbiol, 75(8), pp. 2558–2565. Available at: (Accessed: 28 February 2019).

Mandal, B. and Suzuki, K. (2002) ‘Arsenic round the world: a review’, Talanta, 58(1), pp. 201–235. Available at: (Accessed: 28 February 2019).
Manning, B. A. and Goldberg, S. (1997) ‘Adsorption and Stability of Arsenic(III) at the Clay Mineral−Water Interface’, Environmental Science & Technology, 31(7), pp. 2005–2011. doi: 10.1021/es9608104.

Mehmood, A. et al. (2009) ‘Mechanisms of arsenic adsorption in calcareous soils’, J Agric Biol Sci, 1(1), pp. 59–65. Available at: (Accessed: 4 January 2019).

Merry, R., Tiller, K. and Alston, A. (1983) ‘Accumulation of copper, lead and arsenic in some Australian orchard soils’, Australian orchard soils. Soil Research, 21(4), pp. 549–61. Available at: (Accessed: 4 March 2019).

Métral, J. et al. (2008) ‘Comparison of dissolved and particulate arsenic distributions in shallow aquifers of Chakdaha, India, and Araihazar, Bangladesh’, Geochemical Transactions, 9(1), p. 1. doi: 10.1186/1467-4866-9-1.

Mosaferi, M. et al. (2014) ‘Removal of Arsenic (III, V) from aqueous solution by nanoscale zero-valent iron stabilized with starch and carboxymethyl cellulose’, Journal of Environmental Health Science and Engineering, 12(1), p. 74. doi: 10.1186/2052-336X-12-74.

Murakami, T. et al. (2003) ‘Biotite dissolution processes and mechanisms in the laboratory and in nature: Early stage weathering environment and vermiculitization’, American Mineralogist, 88(2–3), pp. 377–386. Available at: (Accessed: 13 March 2019).

Nath, B. et al. (2008) ‘Hydrochemistry of Arsenic-Enriched Aquifer from Rural West Bengal, India: A Study of the Arsenic Exposure and Mitigation Option’, Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 190(1–4), pp. 95–113. doi: 10.1007/s11270-007-9583-x.

Nath, B. et al. (2008) ‘Mobility of arsenic in West Bengal aquifers conducting low and high groundwater arsenic. Part I: Comparative hydrochemical and hydrogeological characteristics’, Applied Geochemistry, 23(5), pp. 977–995. Available at: (Accessed: 4 March 2019).

Nath, B. et al. (2009) ‘Mobility of arsenic in the sub-surface environment: An integrated hydrogeochemical study and sorption model of the sandy aquifer materials’, ournal of Hydrology, 364(3–4), pp. 236–248. Available at: (Accessed: 15 March 2019).

Nath, B. et al. (2011) ‘Geochemical characterization of arsenic-affected alluvial aquifers of the Bengal Delta (West Bengal and Bangladesh) and Chianan Plains (SW Taiwan)’, Applied Geochemistry, 26(5), pp. 705–713. Available at: (Accessed: 15 March 2019).

Nickson, R., McArthur, J. and Ravenscroft, P. (2000) ‘Mechanism of arsenic release to groundwater, Bangladesh and West Bengal’, Applied Geochemistry. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Onken, B. and Hossner, L. (1995) ‘Plant uptake and determination of arsenic species in soil solution under flooded conditions’, Journal of Environmental Quality, 24(2), pp. 373–381. Available at: (Accessed: 4 March 2019).

Organization, W. H. (2010) ‘Drinking water quality in the South-East Asia region’. Available at: (Accessed: 28 February 2019).

Pal, T. et al. (2002) ‘Arsenic pollution in groundwater of West Bengal, India-An insight into the problem by subsurface sediment analysis’, Gondwana Research, 5(2), pp. 501–512. Available at: (Accessed: 13 March 2019).

Pal, T. and Mukherjee, P. K. (2009) ‘Study of subsurface geology in locating arsenic-free groundwater in Bengal delta, West Bengal, India’, Environmental Geology, 56(6), pp. 1211–1225. doi: 10.1007/s00254-008-1221-4.

Peryea, F. J. and Creger, T. L. (1994) ‘Vertical distribution of lead and arsenic in soils contaminated with lead arsenate pesticide residues’, HortScience, 78(3–4), pp. 297–306. doi: 10.1007/BF00483038.

Polizzotto, M. et al. (2006) ‘Solid-phases and desorption processes of arsenic within Bangladesh sediments’, Chemical Geology. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Polizzotto, M. et al. (2008) ‘Near-surface wetland sediments as a source of arsenic release to ground water in Asia’, Nature. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Polizzotto, M. and Harvey, C. (2005) ‘Processes conducive to the release and transport of arsenic into aquifers of Bangladesh’, National Academy of Sciences. Available at: (Accessed: 21 January 2019).

Qureshi, A. et al. (2008) ‘Managing salinity and waterlogging in the Indus Basin of Pakistan’, Agriculture water, 95(1), pp. 1–10. Available at: (Accessed: 5 March 2019).

Rabbani, U. et al. (2017) ‘Risk assessment for arsenic-contaminated groundwater along River Indus in Pakistan’, Environmental Geochemistry and Health. Springer Netherlands, 39(1), pp. 179–190. doi: 10.1007/s10653-016-9818-0.

Rasool, A. et al. (2016) ‘Elevated levels of arsenic and trace metals in drinking water of Tehsil Mailsi, Punjab, Pakistan’, Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 169, pp. 89–99. Available at: (Accessed: 13 March 2019).

Seddique, A. et al. (2008) ‘Arsenic release from biotite into a Holocene groundwater aquifer in Bangladesh’, Applied Geochemistry, 23(8), pp. 2236–2248. Available at: (Accessed: 15 March 2019).

Shamsudduha, M. et al. (2008) ‘Quaternary stratigraphy, sediment characteristics and geochemistry of arsenic-contaminated alluvial aquifers in the Ganges–Brahmaputra floodplain in central’, Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, 99(1–4), pp. 112–136. Available at: (Accessed: 5 March 2019).

Smedley, P. and Kinniburgh, D. (2002) ‘A review of the source, behaviour and distribution of arsenic in natural waters’, Applied Geochemistry, 17(5), pp. 517–568. Available at: (Accessed: 4 March 2019).

Swartz, C. et al. (2004) ‘Mobility of arsenic in a Bangladesh aquifer: Inferences from geochemical profiles, leaching data, and mineralogical characterization’, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, , 68(22), pp. 4539–4557. Available at: (Accessed: 4 March 2019).

Xie, X. et al. (2009) ‘Geochemistry of redox-sensitive elements and sulfur isotopes in the high arsenic groundwater system of Datong Basin, China’, Science of the total environment, 407(12), pp. 3823–3835. Available at: (Accessed: 5 March 2019).

Yan-Chu, H. (1994) ‘Arsenic distribution in soils. In “Arsenic in the Environment, Part I: Cycling and Characterization”(JO Nriagu, Ed.)’.