NEW HEALTH FEARS AS MORE POISONS ARE WASHED FROM THE DERELICT UNION CARBIDE FACTORY INTO THE SOIL AND WATER SUPPLIES.
SAMBHAVNA CLINIC, BHOPAL, AUGUST 16, 2006
A colossal downpour began at 8.30pm on the night of Sunday 13th and did not let up for twelve hours. By the morning 13 inches (321mm) of rain had fallen on Bhopal. The city’s choked drainage channels were overwhelmed and large areas of the city were soon underwater.
At least 13 people are known to have died, many others, including our neighbours (picture above) were marooned. Local people made rescues in boats, often at great risk to themselves as the streets turned into rushing torrents. People from Sambhavna rescued two children who were in danger of being swept away and watched in dismay as the nala (drainage ditch) on our northern boundary smashed down the stone wall that had been built to keep out monsoon water, and inundated the land right up to the clinic buildings. Trees, cows, furniture and Maruti cars swept past in the current.
The flood was 12 to 15 feet deep in Gautam Nagar (where our friend Vikas, of Greenpeace, lives] PGBT College [where Biju lives]. Close to the clinic, Qazi Camp, Teela Jamalpura and Chaukse Nagar were all underwater, as were Indranagar, Navjeevan Colony, Dwarka Nagar, Mahamai ka Bagh, Rajendra Nagar and many other areas. Bhopal’s Lower Lake, Shapura Lake, Munshi Hussein Khan Lake and Motia Talab were all overflowing
According to the Hindustan Times, 700,000 people living in 55 out of 66 wards were affected. In several places, desperate people from flooded bastis gathered to ask for food and medical help, blocking roads and stopping traffic, until district officials agreed to meet their demands. Gas relief hospitals were asked to stay open despite the national holiday of Independence Day on August 15. Teams were out in the affected areas distributing water purification tablets.
Sambhavna is offering medical help and advice to people in the neighbouring basti.
Known to have died
1. Neetu  daughter of Mukesh
2. Ma  daughter of Suresh
3. Kanchan  daughter of Suresh
4. Chaaya  daughter of Suresh
5. Ballu  son of Suresh
They were crushed when the wall of Sadhu Vaswani College collapsed onto their hut.
Mahamai ka Baug
6. Manoj  son of Shivnarayan Pande
Manoj went out to get milk for morning tea and got carried away by the water rushing through the street.
7. Santosh  son of Vijay Rao
8. Gabbar  son of Gangaram
Gangaram, his wife Savitribai and sons Lacchman, Lakhan and Gabbar were asleep in their hut when it was inundated. Gabbar drowned. Savitribai and the other two boys were swept away and are missing.
9. Pramod  son of Ramesh Kumar
10. Dinesh  son of Munnalal
11. Hasan Ansari  was on duty at an ATM near D.I.G. Bangla crossing. He was electrocuted.
12. Rupaalee  daughter of Prahlad
Rupalee was in one of the six huts that collapsed in Rahul Nagar. Several people were injured.
13. Rajesh  son of Narsingh Rao
Damage to the clinic
The boundary wall around the herbal garden is destroyed. The eastern wall is half damaged but the walls in the west and north are almost all gone.
The garden is covered with plastic, rags and other rubbish.
Many plants and some trees have been uprooted. The beehives have been swept away. Rich fertile soil has been carried away and some areas are covered with sand and gravel.
Platforms for the solar panels and the vermi compost pits have been badly damaged.
Our basement flooded, but has now been pumped out.
Floods highlight the huge danger posed by the still-uncleaned Union Carbide factory
The unprecedented volume of water falling on the severely contaminated Union Carbide factory site will add a massive new dose of lethal toxins to the already polluted soil and water of surrounding communities.
Dow Chemical refuses to accept responsibility for the site, left in a disgraceful condition by its 100% owned subsidiary which in India is officially designated a criminal corporation and fugitive from justice.
Last year the Madhya Pradesh High Court ordered the state government to begin an immediate clean up of the factory, leaving the issue of liability and who should bear the cost unresolved.
The resulting bungled attempt would have been farcical had it not posed such danger to working people who were sent into warehouses full of dangerous pesticides with no masks or protective clothing.
A further attempt to bulldoze the waste for collection raised a huge cloud of toxic dust which resulted in the hospitalisation of many people living nearby.
The disastrous effect of decades of water and soil poisoning are already evident in nearby communities. See this presentation (PDF 8.6Mb) . The floods will make the situation worse, extending the plume of pollution and claiming more victims.
What caused the floods?
The downpour was of exceptional ferocity, more than twice the intensity of the previous rainfall record when a smaller amount (284mm) fell in a twenty four hour period on August 30, 1973.
The city’s drainage system was unable to cope. The open drains and nullahs were in any case clogged with rubbish and sewage. Construction on the flood plains of the nullahs exacerbated the problem.
Overflow gates from Bhopal’s Upper Lake were opened only after the lake had risen two feet above the maximum permitted emergency level. The resulting outrush of this huge volume of water made matters worse.
Making a donation to help the flood relief work
Donations can be made online to the Bhopal Medical Appeal, which funds the work of the Sambhavna Trust Clinic, by clicking here now.
Please note, the Bhopal Medical Appeal is a project of the Pesticide Action Network, UK, and so the receipt on your credit card statement will say PESTICIDE ACTION NETWORK.