When water turns poison in West Bengal ...

Arsenic-contaminated water in Kadamtala affects all residents; none wants to marry girls from the village

Some 50 km from Behrampore — the district town of Murshidabad in Kadamtala village — there is hardly any women who had the luck to marry outside the village.

Reason: People are scared to take girls from this hamlet and there is barely any person who has crossed 50 years because the water here is so arsenic contaminated that it pushes the villagers to a premature death.

Arsenic has contaminated the groundwater of Kadamtala — a cluster of three villages Ramnagar Para, Radhagbindopur and Kadamtala — that it is impossible to find single villager who is not affected by this “poison” and the government knowing everything is sitting on the problem waiting for the people to respond.

The problem has reached to such an extent that people of the neighbouring villages are not only scared to allow their children to get married in this village but don’t allow the residents of Kadamtala to enter their villages, even when they go for begging, because they think that disease is infectious and might affect them also.

“No one is willing to stay here. Local bank authorities are afraid to give us loans because there’s no certainty of paying back the loan as the life expectancy here is too low. No one from outside is willing to buy our produce. The arsenic level is so high that doctors have even advised us not to drink the water of green coconuts,” Congress party member of Katlamari-I gram panchayat and a resident of Kadamtala, Baghbul Islam, told Deccan Herald.

Ten years ago Kadamtala — a village under Katlamari-I gram panchayat at Domkol Sub-division in Murshidabad district — was a flourishing village with 400 families. But now the figure has plummeted to just 270.

Even worse, most of the 1,400-odd people who live here are poor farmers or daily wage labourers, condemned by their lack of means to a long wait for a slow, painful death.

“Arsenic was first detected in Kadamtala in 1994. Over the years, the poison has claimed the lives of many villagers,” said Katlamari-I panchayat pradhan Bishnupriya Halder.

“Some years ago there were 400 families but now it has come down to 270 as some people died and others left the village. They are scared to stay here. We got a tube well under the Sajaldhara scheme recently and it was relief to us but it doesn’t work because of power crisis” Halder said.

Harmful effect

However, the government officials have different explanation to offer. “To avail Sajaldhara project — a project to provide fresh drinking water to rural Bengal — a resident of a particular village must apply on a prescribed form and deposit a sum of Rs 200 in the BDO office. Then only they are eligible for electricity connection — much needed to run a tube well,” a senior district administrative officer said. “For the last few years we have been trying to convince the villagers but they are not ready to collect the form and sign it because they fear that one who signs will have to pay the electricity bill,” the officer added.

“We have some formality and beyond that we cannot go. So they must realise that they will have to take initiative and then only we can help them,” the officer said.

According to experts prolonged arsenic poisoning can, indeed, cause death because it induces skin cancer and severe liver ailments which can accelerate death.

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