Thirty-two years after the world’s worst chemical disaster struck Bhopal, the city’s residents continue to be exposed to chemical toxins through soil, groundwater and air.
Studies by Sambhavna Trust Clinic, which has been providing free medical care to 32,000 survivors, reveal that the contaminated area around the abandoned Union Carbide pesticide factory has increased by at least two square kilometres in the last four years.
“The two recent fire accidents in plastic factories within half a kilometre of the factory have highlighted the routine hazards on life and the government’s failure to protect people,” members of the clinic told reporters on Thursday.
‘Contamination will continue to spread and find new victims’
They said so long as thousands of tonnes of toxic waste remain buried in and around the factory, the contamination will continue to spread and find new victims.
Allopathic physician Dr Mohammad Ali Qaisar said that five samples of groundwater were tested at the government Public Health Engineering Department’s laboratory and all of them were found to have prohibitively high chemical oxygen demand values.
“Additionally, total dissolved solids in four out of five samples were far in excess of the maximum allowable Bureau of Indian Standards’ limit of 500 ppm,” he said, adding samples tested by the Trust were found to contain hazardous organochlorines.
The report said ground water in Rambha Nagar, Sant Kanwar Ram Nagar, Nishatpura, Risaldar Colony and Dwarka Nagar is contaminated.
‘22 colonies near the factory have contaminated water’
Dr Qaisar said the contaminants, known to cause cancers and birth defects and damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and brain, are getting worse daily. “In October 2012, scientists from the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, Lucknow, had tested 30 samples of groundwater and on that basis identified 22 colonies near the factory to have contaminated water. Accordingly, 10,000 families are being provided with piped water,” said paramedic Aziza Sultan.
Elaborating on the subject, Priyank Sharma, one of the members of the clinic, said, “Sixteen studies from 1990 to 2012 by government and non-government agencies have shown that the ongoing contamination is a consequence of reckless dumping of poisonous waste by the factory management in and outside the factory.”
On being asked about the first thing that government needs to do on immediate basis, Dr Qaisar says, “Rehabilitation of the people living in that vicinity should be the priority. Secondly, a specific protocol needs to be assigned to gas-affected people.”
He also stressed on the need to relocate people from the area “as they are as unsafe as they were 32 years back” and urged government to act on the studies done by private bodies and NGOs.