At a press conference today, members of the Sambhavna Trust, which has been providing free medical care to survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide Bhopal Gas Disaster for the last 15 years, described the various programs being organized by the Trust on the occasion of the 27th anniversary of the disaster.
Members of Sambhavna said that they would be creating awareness on the health and healthcare of the people affected by the gas disaster and groundwater contamination as well as on the chemical hazards in the city. They said that on 2nd December they will take part in the survivors’ rally with a poster exhibition and street plays. On the evening of 2nd December, Sambhavna members will pay homage to the persons killed by the gas disaster by holding a candlelight vigil.
Speaking on the specialties of the Sambhavna Clinic, located in the heart of the severely affected area, pediatrician Dr. Mohammad Waseem said that at Sambhavna, survivors are provided appropriate treatment through Allopathy, Ayurveda and Yoga systems of healthcare. He said Sambhavna was the only healthcare facility in the city that exclusively provided for gas victims and those poisoned by chemicals from Union Carbide’s recklessly dumped hazardous waste.
Dr. Waseem said that treatment protocols for over a dozen most common symptom complexes among the victims of Union Carbide’s poisons have been developed at Sambhavna.
He said that through Ayurveda and Panchakarma (herbal detoxification procedures) incurable illnesses such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and paralysis are treated successfully at Sambhavna. Dr. Waseem stated that a large part of the Ayurvedic medicines prescribed at their clinic are produced at the clinic itself using methods outlined in ancient texts. The herbs needed to manufacture the medicines are grown in the clinic garden without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.
Dr. Waseem said that the Sambhavna Clinic is fully computerized to constantly improve treatment and health monitoring facilities. He said that the community healthworkers of Sambhavna carry out screening for cervical cancers, control of TB and malaria and health education with the participation of community health volunteers. Dr. Waseem, said that this year the Clinic initiated the formation of a 50-member ‘Patients’ Committee’ to encourage their participation in the running of the clinic.
Ms. Shahanaz Ansari, librarian at Sambhavna, said that the Sambhavna Trust does not accept funds from corporations and governments, and is run by individual donations from over 15,000 supporters. Ms. Ansari, who was exposed to Carbide’s gases when she was less than a year old, said that this year Sambhavna’s supporters in the UK raised GBP 12,000 pounds, from picking litter at the Glastonbury Music Festival.
Mrs. Mahindra Soni, a technician at the clinic’s laboratory, said that the research wing of the clinic carried out an investigation into the health impact of the chlorine gas leak near the state assembly building on August 22nd this year. The report of this investigation will be published on 2nd December.
Mrs. Soni, herself a victim of the Union Carbide Gas Disaster, said that the investigation into the chlorine gas leak and its aftermath demonstrates that the government has not learnt any lessons from the Bhopal Gas Disaster in 1984. She said that the recent chlorine gas leak was caused due to malfunctioning equipment, and lack of safety equipment and training. The victims of chlorine exposure were prescribed irrational and potentially harmful drugs and there was no system for monitoring the health of the victims.
Mrs. Soni said that because of the unregulated storage, production and use of large quantities of hazardous chemicals there is an ever present danger to the lives and health of the citizens. She said that in the face of the government’s deliberate neglect of issues of industrial hazards there is a strong need for information-based collective action on issues of environmental health.
1. The chlorine filtration plant is considered a “factory” under the factories act 1948.
2. The factory inspector found that: i. there was no facility for quick neutralization of chlorine in case of accidental leak, ii. workers were not given safety equipment and iii. plant management did not submit a plan for emergency situations to the factory inspectorate.
3. The official of MPPCB found that: i. there was no on site emergency plan ii. the protective equipment for workers had expired in 1994 and iii. there was no eye-wash or face wash facility.
4. Too many of the exposed persons were prescribed antibiotic capsules, tablets and eye drops and no records were kept of the exposed people.
5. There are five more filtration plants in the city and a leak in these could expose over 30,000 people.
Sambhavna Trust Clinic, Bafna Colony, Bhopal
T: +91 (0)755 2730914