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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 November, 2004, 08:16 GMT
Bhopal 'faces risk of poisoning'
By Paul Vickers
BBC News, Bhopal

Bhopal protester in Delhi
Survivors have been waiting for help for years
Thousands of Indians around Bhopal remain at risk of poisoning 20 years after a major disaster in the city, an investigation by the BBC has revealed.

Four thousand people died after an explosion and toxic gas leak at a pesticide factory owned by US company Union Carbide in 1984.

Union Carbide India Limited was responsible for cleaning up the site.

But thousands of tonnes of toxic waste are still stored inadequately nearby, poisoning the town's water supply.

We took a sample of drinking water from a well near the site.

Disputed results

It had levels of contamination 500 times higher than the maximum limits recommended by the World Health Organization.

The local people who drink this water every day are exposing themselves to a substantial chemical hazard associated, over time, with liver and kidney damage.

Union Carbide disputes the test results.

The company says when it handed the site back in 1998 it "found no evidence of groundwater contamination".

When we presented details of the chemicals we found, it said it was "not aware of any evidence to support such claims".

Site of Union Carbide plant at Bhopal

But there are still thousands of tons of toxic waste on the abandoned and dilapidated site, lying in piles exposed to the weather.

We found pools of mercury lying on the ground, skips full of poisonous material and in some sheds, chemical waste in bags that was still highly dangerous.

In one building on the site, the atmosphere was so poisonous I could barely breathe.

When it rains - especially in the monsoon season - rainwater washes these chemicals into puddles, streams and eventually into the ground water.

Unsurprisingly the wells have become contaminated. But people drink from them all the same.

Those who do, complain of a pattern of symptoms, including pains in the stomach, headaches, anaemia, and gynaecological problems.

Although they know the water is unclean, they say they have no other source to drink from.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear details of the risks faced in Bhopal



SEE ALSO:
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Bhopal campaigners win key prize
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Gas disaster survivors fight on
02 Dec 03 |  South Asia
US dismisses Bhopal lawsuit
20 Mar 03 |  Business
Bhopal: Death at midnight
26 Aug 02 |  South Asia


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