Thousands of Bhopal gas tragedy survivors are drinking chemical-laden water

BHOPAL: Even after 35 years of Bhopal Gas tragedy, thousands of survivors living in vicinity of Union Carbide (UCC) plant site still have no option but to drink chemical laden water.

Among the worst affected colonies are Blue Moon, Nawab Colony, Shriram Nagar, Annu Nagar, JP Nagar, Shakti Nagar, Karim Nagar, Jeevan Jyoti Nagar, Kainchi Chhola, Karim Baqsh, Kachi Chola, and others.

Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action said, “ Even after 35 years, gas victims are consuming contaminated water. Piped water supply still a distant dream for them”

In November 2012 and again in January 2013 Supreme Court had issued directions to the state government to provide piped water, and ensure that sewage and drinking water lines were kept apart, said Dhingra. Despite the orders, there are several places where sewage and drinking water lines lie parallel to each other, she added.

On February 19, 2013, Justice K K Lahoti, who is the chairman of the committee gave instructions on ensuring clean drinking water connections to all the resident of 22 affected areas. The water supply system consists of large water plastic tanks that are either refilled by surface pipes or by tanker trucks. The system is not properly maintained as in the dry season, many wells dry with groundwater table going down. While during monsoon, the ground water accessed by hand pumps and bore wells is often muddy and potentially contaminated, she added.

Diseases: The most common ailments among the survivors are cancer, pulmonary disease, asthma, diabetes, stomach and skin problems, and nephrotic diseases.

Chemical presence: The Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board has found the soil and groundwater of the area contaminated with dangerous levels of mercury, nickel and pesticides like endrin, dieldrin, carbaryl, methoxychlor and other toxins. Chemicals left abandoned and untreated at the plant continue to pollute the groundwater. Pesticides, chemicals, and heavy metals are present in the groundwater in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory site and this water is consumed by people living in the densely populated surrounding areas.

346 tonnes of toxic waste still lying: Currently, 346 tonnes of hazardous toxic waste kept in sealed containers in the factory is yet to be disposed of. Over the years, authorities drew up plans to dispose of the waste at different locations, first at Pithampur in MP, then at Ankleshwar in Gujarat, then at a facility of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) near Nagpur in Maharashtra and also at a German facility in Hamburg. But none of the plans materialised mainly due to stiff opposition from the local people at the sites chosen and concerns over the risk to public health and safety from incineration of the poisonous wastes.