Against arsenic

Published: Monday 28 February 2005

Will the local administration< Arsenic Poisoning Varanasi CSE New Delhi

Many people in Uttar Pradesh (up), including Varanasi, have been poisoned; their groundwater has arsenic. This was the message of a regional media briefing workshop organised in Varanasi on January 27-28, 2005. The workshop was spearheaded by the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (cse). The Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya Hindi Patrakarita Sansthan, Varanasi (affiliated to the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth, Varanasi), the Rural Journalist Association of India, Jaipur and the Indian Media Centre for Journalists, Lucknow collaborated in the effort. The workshop was organised in the wake of an article that brought to light extensive arsenic contamination in Ballia district, up (see "More arsenic," Down To Earth, September 15, 2004). Laboratory tests proved that contamination levels in groundwater were much higher than the standard of 10 parts per billion. Tests on biological samples yielded similar results. But the local administration as well as the Union government denies there is a problem.

The workshop's main aim was to inform regional journalists about arsenic contamination and its adverse health impacts. This, in turn, would expedite the communication process: it would make people aware of the menace at hand. Extensive reportage can also help create public pressure on the administration to first acknowledge the problem, and then take steps to resolve it. cse released a comprehensive working paper on arsenic poisoning in India and Bangladesh to mark the occasion. Journalists from leading newspapers of up attended the event. Bharat Singh, member of up legislative assembly from Ballia, assured he would use his political clout to find a solution to the problem.

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