Arsenic Problem in West Bengal
Thousands are Being Slowly Poisoned in India and Bangladesh, thousands of human beings are unknowingly being slowly poisoned due to arsenic contaminated drinking water. The tube wells, which once saved their lives by preventing gastrointestinal diseases, are now killing them.
Exposure to arsenic in drinking water has been established to cause cancer of the lung, kidney, liver, skin and bladder.
Those who are exposed to arsenic in-utero and early childhood may develop diseases such as acute myocardial infarction, childhood liver cancer and bronchiectasis, a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
In India the six most populated states are in the arsenic prone zone. Six million people are exposed in one state alone (West Bengal, Kolkata/Calcutta is the capital).
* In 1982 Dr. K. C. Saha, a dermatologist of Calcutta, West Bengal, noticed the skin lesions which led to the search for a cause.
* In 1993/94 he related the problem to the high levels of arsenic in the drinking water.
* Dr. Dipankar Chakraborti, Director of School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta, did extensive investigations and brought the issue to the attention of the world.
* Since then numerous seminars, meetings, programs have been organized to raise global and local awareness towards arsenic poisoning and many research papers have been published.
* But what about saving the people those who are drinking arsenic contaminated water.
*Large numbers of people are developing skin lesions.
* Numerous social problems are developing. For instance women with skin changes due to arsenic are sent back to their parents house, and men are remarrying. Families are being isolated. People consider such phenomena as a 'curse'.
* At least 220,000 inhabitants of India's West Bengal state have symptoms of arsenic poisoning, in what is being called the "the biggest arsenic calamity in the world". (British Medical Journal, 1996, vol: 313, pg 7048).
* Hundreds of thousands are drinking the contaminated water. Arsenic -free water is needed immediately to avoid thousands of deaths from cancer due to long term exposure to arsenic.
The woman pictured expired on March 27th, 2001 at the age of 38. She was not married, and the little girl is her niece. According to the press report, so far, in her district of North 24 Parganas, 150 people have died from arsenic poisoning. The number of victims and its effect on medical expenditure is increasing.