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

Endangered Generations :Groundwater Arsenic Contamination in
West Bengal, India


Murshidabad district

The area and population of Murshidabad district are 5324 and 5.3 million respectively. We have been surveying all 26 blocks of Murshidabad for the last 3 years and have analyzed 29612 water samples for arsenic. The arsenic content in groundwater in 24 of the 26 blocks exceeds the 50 µg/l limit and in 25 blocks
above 10 µg/l (Figure 3). Our calculation reveals that at least 1.2 million people in these 24 blocks are drinking water whose arsenic content exceeds the maximum permissible limit set by WHO. Till date, we have succeeded in partially ascertaining the number of patients in 3 blocks of the districts. We have recorded the names, addresses and description of the arsenical skin lesions of about 4813 patients. Detailed field survey of Murshidabad district is given in Table 3.

Table 3: Groundwater arsenic situation and sufferings of people in Murshidabad district

Area of Murshidabad 5324
Population of Murshidabad (in thousand) 4740.15
Total number of blocks in Murshidabad district 26
Number of blocks where we had surveyed 26
Total number of GPs in Murshidabad district 225
Total number of GPs covered 220
Total number of hand tubewell water samples analyzed 29612
Number of arsenic affected blocks where groundwater contains arsenic above 10 µg/l 25
Number of arsenic affected blocks where groundwater contains arsenic above 50 µg/l 24
Total number of villages in Murshidabad 2414
Number of arsenic affected villages with arsenic above 50 µg/l (according to our survey) 994
Blocks surveyed for arsenic patients 15
Blocks where people with arsenical skin lesions identified 15
% of samples with arsenic above 10µg/l 53.8
% of samples with arsenic above 50µg/l 26.0
Total biological samples analyzed 3700
% of biological samples contain arsenic above normal levels (average) 88
People screened for arsenic patients (preliminary survey) 25274
Number of registered patients with clinical manifestations 4813 (19%)
Expected people drinking arsenic contaminated water above 10 µg/L 2.5 million
Expected people drinking arsenic contaminated water above 50 µg/L 1.2 million

During our very preliminary 4 days survey from 18-21 December, 2001 from 4 affected blocks of Murshidabad we have registered 931 new patients with arsenical skin lesions and out of them 14 are suspected cancer patients and 72 suspected Bowens (Photograph 2-6). Our experience in the field as well as inputs given by the villagers have pointed out that we have not succeeded in recording the problems of even 10% of the suffering / affected folk. One of the reasons, during the time we are in the village, most of the adult villagers is in the field and school going folk are in schools. We also feel that affected young girls and middle-aged women did not turn up to our camp to avoid social problem. We have learned from the affected villagers that one or two members of many families had arsenic marks on their skins and had met with untimely death. A considerable number of people who have died of cancer also had arsenic lesions.
The arsenic affected villages are home to many types of problems. Young men and especially women are encountering serious difficulty in getting married because of the arsenic mark on their skins. Even persons with arsenic skin lesions are being refused jobs. Some patients are being isolated because of


the mistaken notion of the lesions being leprosy. Even married women are being sent back to their parents because of lesions.




Dubious Tradition || Endangered Generation || Arsenic Orphans