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Bhopal disaster

Local communities near the factory have little choice but to use the contaminated groundwater supplies, say campaigners

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Bhopal chemical poisoning continuing 25 years on

Ecologist

3rd December, 2009

Drinking water in area surrounding the factory is contaminated and creating a 'second Bhopal disaster', say campaigners

The drinking water around the site of the world's worst industrial disaster in India is still poisoning thousands of people, according to a new analysis.

A gas leak at a chemical factory owned by Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) in Bhopal in 1984 led to the deaths of more than 20,000 people and a legacy of birth defects in the local community.

According to samples taken by the Bhopal Medical Appeal in a 3km radius of the site, the groundwater contains at least sixteen contaminants at levels far above World Health Organisation (WHO) safe guidelines.

One carcinogen, carbon tetrachloride (banned in the US since 1970), was found at 2,400 times the safe limit.

Toxic build-up


The contaminated groundwater is leading to a toxic build-up of chemicals and heavy metals in the soils, plants, animals and local people. A preliminary study by the Sambhavna clinic suggests as many as one in twenty-five children in the area are born with a congenital defect.

Greenpeace campaigner Dr Nirmala Kajaria said some people had been given water tanks but that much of the local community had no alternative but to use the groundwater.

'It is not causing immediate death but for the people continuously using this water twenty-four a day for washing, cooking and drinking it is affecting their bodies, their eyes and is giving them breathing problems.

'Nobody wants to take responsibility to clean up the factory,' said Kajaria. 'Not the Dow Chemical Company [which bought UCIL in 2001] and not the Indian government. The whole area needs to be dug up. But everyone just wants to pass on the buck. We're continuously re-living history.'

Bhopal Medical Appeal executive secretary Peter Finnigan said he hoped the newly published tests would, 'dispel any notion of the site being ‘safe’ once and for all.'

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