AID Kolkata volunteers report about severe Arsenic problems in Madanpur village, Murshidabad, West Bengal

The gloom set in both the weather and our minds as we interacted with the people from the small village of Madanpur. Most of them had hyperkeratosis, corns and warts, large boils and tumors in skin – all symptoms of arsenicosis. The ground water of that area has very high levels of arsenic for the past 25 yrs. So far there has been no major help from the government in either making available other source of drinking water or helping out the effected people with medical facilities.

Obviously, there is a deep feeling of anger and resentment amongst the people. Some governmental/ non- governmental teams do visit occasionally but none have done anything to give the people some respite from the problem. One such team had sealed the hand pump and asked them to use the water of river Padma instead for their daily chores. However, the river bank is three kilometers away from the village and people really find it difficult to get their drinking water supplies from such a large distance. For the past eight years the underground water samples of the area has not been tested.They have continued using the contaminated ground water as a result of which some people have succumbed to cancer. We also met a few people who were suffering from cancer. They have to travel all the way to Kolkata (Institute of Tropical Medicine) for medical checkup. That too they cannot afford a follow-up visit.

Another major reason of arsenic toxicity is the rampant use of pesticide. Most of the people we met were farmers with very small land holdings. The local people made a desperate appeal……”Amader jonno kicchu korun” (please do something for us). We left Madanpur with a heavy- heart filled with despair and sadness.

Possible areas of intervention:

  1. To find out if any water purification system can filter out the arsenic at least to a certain extent or to look for ways and means to make an alternate arrangement for drinking water for the local people.
  2. To arrange medical camps at regular intervals.
  3. To take up this issue with local authorities and advocate for their right to clean drinking water and health care.
  4. To discourage the use of pesticides by the local farmers and promote organic farming.
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