Arsenic poisoning in these districts is a serious environmental problem and is affecting the health of millions of people in the State. The problem has been aggravated with increase in groundwater exploitation leading to leaching of arsenic located in upper layers of sediment down into the deep aquifers.
During my visits to these districts, I have had dreary experiences -
First, I went to Sutiya village in North 24 Parganas district. Here I talked to Jagabandhu Mandal who is affected by arsenic contamination. His wife, mother, and son are also affected by it and he lost his father last year due to it.
Sanatan Mazumdar, who is suffering from cancer due to this problem, lives in Purba Plalta, in North 24 Parganas district. He angrily told me, “Why do you come to my home? Many people (NGOs) are using us to do business”. He used to be a beedi worker earlier but has now fallen below poverty line, after taking loans for medical treatment purpose. His wife informed me that, he was earning rupees 23 daily. “To save his life, we have taken loans beyond our financial capacity. But we cannot save his life as we do not have money for him to undergo chemotherapy or surgery”.
In Murshidabad districts, in a family nine persons died due to arsenic. Saira Bewya, a surviving member of the family informed me “My father-in-law, mother-in-law, husband, sons, and daughters died due to problems of arsenic”.
In Malda district, Mr. Tofajul Hussain, informed me that, he lost his leg. Now he is a cancer patient. Tragically the rest of the family members are also affected by it. He is the only earning member of the family and has a daily income of rupees thirty only.
All the four arsenic-affected families whose conditions I have described informed me that they do not have adequate water supply facility for arsenic free water. In the village, Purba Palta, North 24 Parganas district, the villagers showed me the water pipe, built under State government initiative a few years to provide arsenic free water to the villagers. However, the water pipe line has become defunct due to lack of proper maintenance. They also argue that many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had assured them to provide arsenic free water but have done nothing.
These arsenic affect people are just waiting for death!
Video Courtesy: Aalokolkata
Tanmay Dhar, Documentary Filmmaker