Ganga-Meghna Brahmaputra || West Bengal || Bangladesh || Middle Ganga Plain, Bihar || Uttarpradesh
Jharkhand || North-East Hilly States || Rajnandgaon, Chattisgar || Behala, Kolkata, WB || As toxicity- Homeopathic Treatment
Effectiveness & Reliability - As Field Testing Kits || Utility Of Treatment Plant
Causes, Effects & Remedies - Groundwater As Calamity || References

ARSENIC POISONING IN WEST BENGAL : A DUBIOUS TRADITION
Dr. Dipankar Chakraborty, Director(Research)
School of Environmental Studies, Jadavpur University,
Kolkata - 700032, India

Madanpur is a remote village of total population of about 300. Madanpur is situated in Murshidabad district, at Bhagabangola Block and under Akhriganj Gram Panchayet. Murshidabad is one of the most arsenic affected districts of West Bengal. Madanpur is one of those innumerous villages of West Bengal whose importance is its mere existence. I traveled with our medical group to Madanpur for an arsenic survey on 4th February, 1992. There were no roads leading to Madanpur. Anybody deciding to go there had to overcome a pseudo-expedition and had to undertake a laborious trek over dirty and dust of barren tracks for a duration of about three hours. We registered a shocking 150 member with arsenical skin lesion almost half of their population. They believed that God's curses and sins of their previous birth were what were causing the diseases. I tried to imbibe among them the knowledge that they were suffering of arsenic toxic substance present in their hand tubewell water. The only medicine of this disease is water safe to arsenic, fresh fruits and vegetables. Though meat, fish and egg do help, but, for those poor villagers they were an ecstasy. I tested tubewells of the neighboring village and found a few to be free of the harmful arsenic. I asked the Madanpur people to drink water of those. They showed dissent over the proposal and most declared that it was difficult to fetch water from such distance. Madanpur had three tubewells. On an average those three tubewells pumped up water with arsenic quantity over 715 µg/l.

Madanpur symbolized the massive toxic power of the arsenic to corrode out human life. A village senior and arsenic patient pointed towards his daughter-in-law, proclaimed beauty once, now carried only traces of that by gone brilliance. The beauty has been devoured by arsenic. I was surrounded by children. The children all aged between 6 - 11 years and shockingly about 40% of them were arsenic victims with skin lesions.

Those children shook my stupor. I took this photograph of that tragic lot. It was printed on the first page of the souvenir published commemorating the International conference on arsenic, in Calcutta, February 1995. I spoke to the government, the newspapers - I attempted to make people aware. Then gradually the diabolic proportions of arsenic at Madanpur sunk Lethe-wards in my memory.

10 years later I was again working at Bhagabangola Block of Murshidabad district. I met many old faces, I missed many of them. Those seriously ill, previously, have passed away. Those who have survived were anatomically little better than mere brittle skeletons. A good proportion has turned decrepit. Many have developed wounds, which have not healed and are leading to cancer. The diseased themselves imparted information on a major number of newly infested villages. Arsenic has attained epidemic stature.

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