in ampule water for injection
surveying the arsenic contamination in various products in villages,
suburbs, cities we have found arsenic in water ampules for injections
(Photograph 10). This water is used as a solvent for many life
saving medicines. Since then we have conducted arsenic test in
hundreds of injection ampules from villages, suburbs of many districts
of West Bengal including Kolkata. We had analyzed hundreds of
water-injection ampules from 14 companies available in districts
of West Bengal. We have found arsenic in the water of the ampules
manufactured by some companies in West Bengal and Bihar. The result
of our tests is tabulated in Table 5.
Table 5: Arsenic in Injection Ampules
of companies in which arsenic above 3 µg/l has been found
of companies in which arsenic above 10 µg/l
has been found
of companies in which arsenic above 50 µg/l
has been found
arsenic concentration (µg/l)
have examined many batches of each and every company and have
found some batches of a particular company to contain arsenic
while in other batches of the same company, the water has been
found to be free of the element. This finding proves that most
probably these companies are using ground water from contaminated
districts for their injection ampoules and while water was purified,
arsenic was properly removed in some batches, the same had not
been done always. Arsenic has been found in vials manufactured
by 3 companies in Bihar. These findings are very important. There
can be two explanations: either arsenic is present in the water
of Bihar or the ampules are being manufactured in West Bengal
in the name of Bihar. Arsenic has not been found in the water
ampules of Madhya Pradesh, Gujrat or Tamilnadu.
arsenic problem in Bangladesh is more acute. After conducting
tests on injection ampules manufactured by 10 companies in Bangladesh,
we have found in ampules of 7 such companies arsenic exceeds recommended
limit for drinking water set by WHO (10 µg/l).
Although arsenic content of 10 µg makes water unfit for drinking,
yet it must be taken into account that arsenic from injection
ampules is directly entering the blood stream. How much it will
cause damage is not the main issue, we need to ponder at this
point over the degree of callousness that makes the presence of
arsenic in injection ampules possible.
to combat the arsenic menace
have been trying relentlessly for the last 17 years to present
the severity and future danger of the arsenic problem in West
Bengal. But our efforts do not seem to have succeeded specially
in drawing the attention of government officials and ministers.
Many correspondences made to them have not even received a reply.
During last 10 years all our efforts have received certain patent
comments from the government circles. They have accused us of
spreading panic among innocent citizens. They even characterized
our findings as incorrect and untrue. We have been branded as
self-centered people catering to our vested interest in spreading
lies. On 8th March 1993 the first arsenic patient from Kolkata
was identified in Jadavpur. Arsenic was found in the water of
the area also. Gradually, arsenic was found in the groundwater
of Lake Gardens, Bansdroni and Alipore areas of Kolkata. On every
occasion the government branded our findings as lies. It was only
on 22nd May 2001 the government finally accepted that even Kolkata
is not free from the arsenic danger (Civic body admits arsenic
presence, The Statesman, Tuesday 22 May, 2001). Had they paid
heed to our warnings 10 years back when the first patients was
identified from Jadavpur, then some innocent citizens of Kolkata
would have been spared from drinking contaminated water. When
the arsenic situation of West Bengal is so grave, the arsenic
chief. Engineer, PHED, Govt. of West Bengal in an international
meeting in Bangladesh during August, 2000 told that the total
number of arsenic patients in West Bengal is 450 and arsenic free
drinking water is now supplied to the doorsteps of the people
in the affected areas through pipeline networks (Fact sheet 13
on Arsenic: A Disaster Forum Publication, Dhaka, Bangladesh, p-10).
Also The health minister govt. of West Bengal in an interview
on 5, April 1999 also told that the arsenic situation is much
better now than what it was during 1983 (Arsenic Problem is not
Serious: Medical World: Special Health day copy, 5th April 1999).
have been trying to stress the solutions to the arsenic
problem for many years now. The general misconception
is that it is a problem faced by poor villagers only.
But this not so. The greater percentage of the patients
being villagers is due to the absence of nutritious items
in their daily diets. They are not aware of the extent
and seriousness of their problems. When tubewell water
was first made available to them in 1960, they had rejected
it fearfully by branding it, "The Devil's Water"
and by running away from it. Today they are wholly dependent
on that tubewell water. While we have staged a full fledged
revolution with tubewell water, equal distribution of
our huge available surface water i.e. river, canal, flooded
river basins, oxbow lakes, lagoons, rain water has been
totally neglected by us. West Bengal and Bangladesh have
been referred to as the land of rivers and rains. Had
we succeeded in conservation and effective distribution
of these huge amounts of water then most of our water
problems would have been solved (Photoraph 11)?
spite of having such an ampule supply of water, we are indiscriminately
exploiting our groundwater reserves. Even in the monsoon season
we resort to groundwater extraction if it does not rain for 3
/ 4 days. Today, about 70 million Indians are suffering from fluorosis
and fluoride contaminated drinking water is the root cause of
the situation. 120 million people are at risk from arsenic problem
in West Bengal and Bangladesh. By drawing up underground water
we ourselves have created this problem. Even 2600 years before
in the days of the Mahabharat we are aware of the existence of
the groundwater. (This is exemplified by the incident when the
great warrior Bhisma lying on the bed of arrows was given underground
water to drink.). But we had prevented ourselves from its exploitation
and preserved the equilibrium in nature. We used groundwater in
Kolkata also. But if the rain received by the city (Photograph
12) is properly stored on rooftop and subsequently used for household
consumption, then we can prevent the increased use of groundwater
for as much as five months in a year. A few years back, I had
requested the chairman of the assembly house to issue building
permissions to only those houses that would provide rainwater
storage facilities on their terraces and also to exempt some income
tax to those who will use their existing roof for rainwater harvest.
I had also asked him to levy a water tax as would check the wastage
of water at the hands of residents. But none of my proposals have
been implemented so far.
primary task in our hands now is to make the villagers conscious
of the terrifying nature of the arsenic problem faced by us all.
We have to implement laws and rules to control groundwater extraction.
We must use groundwater only as our last resort. Since independence,
we have not worked hand in hand with villagers in the eradication
of problems. If the arsenic menace is to be eradicated then the
full cooperation of the village folk is an absolute necessity.
Water management is necessary with people's participation.
is our ultimate mother. We have reversed her laws, her methods
of functioning, which she created from thousands of years of her
experience in her laboratory, and thus violating that we have
brought this curse upon us. Nature is now the only solace for
the people of West Bengal and Bangladesh and we can free our selves
from this curse with the help of nature. We should desist from
draining groundwater the lifeblood of our mother. Surface water,
Her breast milk is enough to sustain us all. All human beings
living anywhere in the world should learn to respect and preserve