GMC report on groundwater causes row

A few weeks ago bhopal.net introduced the game ‘Dow lobby watch’, wherein readers are invited to spot the words of Dow lobbyists dribbling from the mouths of compliant Indian officials. The game has gone one step further this week with news that a department of Ghandi Medical College, Bhopal has gone and done a NEERI. The draft report from the authoritative sounding department of Preventive and Social Medicine (PSM) on groundwater contamination from Carbide’s factory apparently contains the kind of tenuous grasp of empirical methodology so beloved of NEERI and so invaluable to vested interests.
A la NEERI, despite its neglect of actual groundwater testing or appropriate study parameters the dubious draft report has been accompanied with the announcement of a conclusion so absent of scientific precaution – ‘the groundwater is not contaminated’ – that it can only have been designed to stand in slack-jawed opposition to the numerous studies – never mind the social and medical evidence – that prove that when several thousand tonnes of mutagens and carcinogens are buried in unsealed pits in the ground they eventually begin to emerge again via the water table. You can read about some of those studies here and here and here.
In this instance, Dow’s useful idiot, S C Tiwari, HoD PSM, is probably only following orders. Coming soon to bhopal.net: prima facie evidence of Dow’s insistence that not only national but also local government agencies are required to be warbling from the same song sheet concerning the factory contamination…
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Contamination? What contamination?
HT Correspondent, Bhopal, December 2, 2007
The draft of a scientific study on potential health impact of
groundwater contamination in the vicinity of abandoned Union Carbide
factory by the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine (PSM) of Gandhi Medical College has triggered a fresh controversy.
NGOs working  for welfare of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster have
expressed severe concern over the PSM’s conclusion that ‘groundwater as no more responsible for any infection or diseases in the effected
areas’.
“The study is unfair and ‘in accord’ to the Dow Chemicals”, claimed
Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action. “PSM officials were followed by our members throughout the survey.  The study designed by the department was faulty, and the data collection was entirely wrong”, she said.
The NGO further said that major parts of the questionnaires were filled at the end of the day by the research assistants with imaginary
information.
“Most subjects were not asked questions related to cancers, birth
defects and reproductive history of women”, said the NGO adding that their suggestions were overlooked during the study. The ‘suggestions’ even included a demand of discontinuing the study.
The PSM officials refuted the allegations claiming that their study had covered 4000 families living in ‘controlled’ and ‘affected’ areas and was up to the mark.
“The groundwater is not contaminated.  We have found it after a detailed scientific survey.  Suggestions given by the NGOs were taken into account”, said S C Tiwari, HoD PSM.
“We have submitted the draft to higher authorities.  Micro analysis of
this draft would be our next procedure apart from taking an experts opinion would be”, he added.
Apart from the NGOs, epidemiologist Dr Swaroop Sarkar (UNAIDS Bangkok) who was included in “core group of experts” of the said study too had an objection on its procedure.  In his letter to the PSM head on August 30, 2007, Dr Swaroop (by quoting a copy of PSM’s questionnaire for the study) had mentioned that there was no information on the baseline prevalence of the diseases expected to be prevalent in the study population.
“No data is being collected on water source and results of examination of water.  Consent and ethical clearance are absent,” wrote Dr Swaroop to Dr Tiwari, adding no international court or journal will admit such study.
Apparently, more NGOs are unsatisfied by the PSM’s study.  “The study is not justified.  For example they marked two taps as a source of
contaminated water and requested people to not use it.  But how is that possible that in a small radius two taps will supply contaminated water and others would not?  The study by PSM is dubious and will definitely benefit Dow Chemicals”, claimed Habeeb of Chingari Trust.
Meanwhile, there are a few who have raised questions on the role of NGOs in the entire issue.
“Why should these NGOs have any doubt on the PSM’s report when their
officials were present during the entire study?  They simply want to create a controversy to rope in more funds from international agencies”, alleged Alok Pratap Singh, of Zehrali Gas Kand Sagharsh Morcha.

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