On June 23rd 2022, The Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) wrote a letter to the Chairman of the Monitoring Committee formed by the Supreme Court of India for provision of clean water to residents in colonies surrounding the abandoned Union Carbide Factory site to inform him that the contamination has now spread t0 29 new colonies. The survivor group, an appointed member of the Monitoring Committee, has been working with the Sambhavna Trust to test the groundwater in neighbourhoods around the factory site since the early 2000’s.
Their findings are extremely alarming: when the State Government of Madhya Pradesh was first ordered to provide piped water to affected areas in 2004, the number of affected neighbourhoods stood at 14. This rose to 18 in 2012, 22 in 2013 and 42 in 2016. With the addition of 29 more in the most recent round of testing the total number of affected neighbourhoods would now stand at 71, an increase of more than five times the original number over the past 18 years.
Rachna Dhingra, co-convener of the BGIA, said in the Sambhavna Trust’s most recent round of tests of 40 local colonies soil in 29 of them was found to contain organochlorine, a toxic substance known to be hazardous to human health. She said the letter was drafted in order to allow the Monitoring Committee to notify the Supreme Court of the findings so that the Indian Institute of Toxicological Research could carry out further study and confirm the results.
Apart from the urgent need to provide fresh, uncontaminated water to thousands more people in the 29 newly affected neighbourhoods, these studies confirm that the spread of contamination from the abandoned factory has still not slowed down and continues to damage the lives of local people more than 38 years after the original disaster. Until a full and thorough toxicological survey of the spread is carried out, and steps taken to treat and neutralise the poisons, the people of Bhopal will continue to suffer the consequences of a disaster they had no part in causing.