Residents of a Chattisgarh village in India battle cancer after drinking water contaminated with arsenic.
This video by Bhan Sahu brings the tragic story of Kaudikasa – a village where the groundwater has high level of arsenic, which has made it completely unsafe. But, as the villages do not have any alternative, they are forced to use this contaminated water which has been causing skin and uterine cancer, besides ulcer, hyper allergy and dizziness. At least 150 people here have severe cases of arsenic poisoning.
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There are 22 such villages in Rajnandgaon district of Chattisgarh where people are suffering from arsenic poisoning. Kaudikausa has been declared the most affected of them all by several research institutions which conducted studies on arsenic level in the groundwater. According to one such study done by School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University, there are three possible reasons:
• About 5 km away from Koudikasa, there is a place called Bodal where the Atomic Energy Commission had set up uranium mines from 1982 to 1989. Heaps of sediment, left by the mine still lying untreated on the surface in Bodal.
• Many villagers from Koudikasa go to nearby streams, small canals (Bhagawantala, Basta), and Shivnath river to collect gold particles where they are exposed to the sediments released by the uranium mine
• Many villagers in Koudikasa have serious arsenical keratosis, Bowens disease and Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
Bhan Sahu says that prior to these studies the villagers didn’t know what was killing them. But now that they know it is arsenic in the water, they are scared not just for themselves, but also for their children who might be get cancer too. Bhan Sahu who lives close to Kaudikasa, visits the village often. During every visit she has drunk the same polluted water – something that makes her wonder if she is going to be sick too. So, she well understands the fear of every villager.
But what is the government doing to protect people of Kaudikasa against such danger? According to Bhan Sahu, little has been done besides commissioning studies. The district administration has set up an arsenic treatment plant in the village a few years ago, but the water supplied from here is neither totally arsenic free, nor enough for villagers to cater to all their daily needs. Besides, there is no program to make people aware of arsenic and it’s affects on health. Should they just avoid drinking water from the well or the stream or, should they stop using the untreated water altogether? There is none to advise them on this. There is no real treatment for the sick either. The district health department has only taken notice of the allergic rash and ulcers, and has provided some ointments which has not helped at all.
Also, it is interesting to see how the government maintains silence on the possible connection between the groundwater contamination and the role of the atomic energy commission or the affect of the uranium mine in the district.
Bhan Sahu has done this video to bring to light, the suffering of the Kaudikasa villagers.
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