Contamination Spreads Even Further in Bhopal

A contaminated water stand pipe locked to prevent use. Elsewhere, contaminated water remains the primary supply for thousands of people. Photo: © Judah Passow

On World Environment Day 2019, members of the Sambhavna Trust Clinic addressed a press conference with new information concerning the toxic contamination of groundwater in the aquifers surrounding the abandoned Union Carbide factory, site of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster.

The members said that they have found evidence that the contamination has spread to a further six colonies in addition to the 42 colonies identified by the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research till June 2018.

The contamination is caused by chemical waste, abandoned at the site while the factory was in production, leaching down into the groundwater aquifers. The toxins have spread for miles and contaminate the water used as a primary supply for a number of people estimated to be in excess of 100,000.

From the Sambhavna Trust Clinic:
“Last month we tested groundwater samples from 30 colonies surrounding the area reported to have contaminated groundwater by the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research. We found strong evidence of presence of organo-chlorines in 6 of these samples.” said Mahindra Soni, laboratory technician at the Clinic. 

Speaking on the health hazards of chronic exposure to organo-chlorines, Sangeeta Chourasia, Community Health worker at the Clinic said, “The continuing presence and spread of organo-chlorines in the Bhopal groundwater is the second environmental disaster in this city. Organo-chlorines retain their toxicity for a long time, accumulate in the body and are known to cause cancers, birth defects and damage to the brain, liver, kidneys as well as the immunological, endocrine, reproductive and other systems. Almost all of the 18 studies done on Bhopal groundwater have reported the presence of organo-chlorines in high concentrations.”

“With help from international volunteers, we developed a technique for qualitative assessment of organo-chlorines at the clinic. Based on this technique we identified the 20 additional colonies that were later found to have contaminated groundwater by the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research. The latest use of this technique has shown the presence of organo-chlorines in the groundwater in Ibrahimganj, Bafna Colony, Gautam Nagar, PGBT College, Arif Nagar and Radhakrishna Nagar.” said  Aziza Sultan, Gynecology assistant at the clinic.

Said Farhat Jahan, Community Research worker at Sambhavna, “Ours is the only clinic in Bhopal offering free medical care to victims of chronic exposure to groundwater contaminated by Union Carbide’s recklessly dumped hazardous waste. Nobody seems to care about the medical care of these victims or about stopping the ongoing contamination.  Five years back officials of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) did offer to do a scientific assessment of the contaminated area in Bhopal but the government is yet to respond to it. As a result, thousands of tonnes of poisonous waste lie buried in and around the factory and the contaminated area continues to spread so that organo-chlorines find new victims everyday in Bhopal.”

  • In June 2018, tests performed by the Indian Institute of Toxicological Research confirmed excessive levels of nitrate, chloride and heavy metals in 20 further housing colonies, bringing to 42 (representing tens of thousands of families) the number having ground water contaminated by chemicals believed to have originated from toxic waste dumped by Union Carbide.

 

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We believe Dow must finally accept responsibility for Bhopal. Until then, The Bhopal Medical Appeal funds two award-winning clinics in the city. Both offer free, first-class care to victims of the gas disaster or the ongoing water contamination. The survivors have nowhere else left to turn – please help if you can.