Magazine article New Internationalist

Bhopal Survivors Now Have to Drink Sewage Water

Magazine article New Internationalist

Bhopal Survivors Now Have to Drink Sewage Water

Article excerpt

2-3 DECEMBER

ANNIVERSARY OF BHOPAL GAS DISASTER

Twenty-six years after the tragic night when tonnes of methyl isocyanate gas descended from Union Carbide (UCC)'s pesticide factory onto Bhopal's slums, the poisonous legacy continues. More than 25,000 people have died and at least 500,000 are believed to be chronically ill due to the gas disaster and subsequent water contamination.

Vast areas surrounding the UCC compound have been labelled a 'global toxic hot-spot' and declared unfit for any kind of use. Now, numerous groundwater sources have been found to contain mercury concentrations millions of times higher than World Health Organization recommended limits, as well as large amounts of other poisonous chemicals and metals.

Decades of water and soil contamination from the factory are feeding a brand new public health tragedy. Despite an Indian Supreme Court ruling in 2005 that the state government of Madhya Pradesh must provide clean alternatives to UCC-polluted groundwater, an estimated 87 per cent of people in affected communities still have to use water heavily contaminated with toxic chemicals and heavy metals. Events recently took another turn for the worse when large amounts of government-supplied water tested positive for e-coli. According to Dr Saringi, founder of The Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal, 'the government is being criminally negligent and mixing safe water with water sourced near an open sewer channel to save money'.

Babular Gaur, the state minister for gas-rehabilitation, industry and development, prefers to blame the people for the ongoing health problems: 'These slums are filthy and their sanitation is bad. …

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