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I am in the process of registering ‘A Better Tomorrow‘ as a ‘Small Charity‘ in the United Kingdom – attracting funds not exceeding a total of 5000 UK£ per year, before being able to apply to The Charity Commission for England and Wales, and become an official Charity. Its focus will mainly be on the education and training of needy children living in water-affected colonies of Bhopal.
In the beginning, this will be carried out by commissioning small, specific projects to a trusted local NGO. I am in talks with The Bhopal Medical Appeal to understand whether Chingari Trust could take on such collaborative role.
> Poonam Jatev is a lively 8-year-old girl from Bhopal, India.
Born ‘unlucky’, with a tiny sixth toe on each foot, her father superstitiously believed she brought misfortune upon the entire family.
She desires to become a teacher, like the ones who practice in her new school.
With a sweet cheeky smile and sometimes mischievous attitude, her wide shiny eyes reveal hope and trust for the future. Subscribe to Poonam’s Facebook Page, and receive regular updates, as both this blog and Poonam’s life in Bhopal, develop further.
I first met Poonam in April 2009, during the production of a reportage on water pollution in the city of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, shot for the 25th anniversary of the infamous 1984 industrial disaster. The killer gas-leak was caused by the persistent negligence of the American corporation Union Carbide - now DOW Chemical.
Poonam is the subject of the above image, which was shot during the scorching afternoon hours on August 25, 2009. My body of work in Bhopal attracted the attention of many people, who remembered the 1984 disaster, but were surprised, and deeply touched, to find out the grim reality and its consequences a quarter of a century later.
Many readers felt the injustice experienced by the people of Bhopal, and recognized the moral responsibility of DOW Chemical, the owner of Union Carbide since 2001, should assume in cleaning the industrial site and its surroundings, and in remedying to the undeniable long-lasting damage inflicted on the people of Bhopal.
At least 8000 people died during the immediate aftermath of the disaster, and close to 200.000 have suffered various injuries with recurring health problems.
Almost three decades later, left buried in numerous spots around the abandoned industrial complex, which still stands today, are tons of toxic waste dumped by Union Carbide throughout its years of operation in Bhopal.
The poisonous chemicals are relentlessly penetrating and contaminating the area’s underground water reservoirs, causing severe neurological and physical disorders to the children of Bhopal.
Read more on the current water pollution crises in Bhopal.
Luckily, in areas of Poonam’s colony, Oriya Basti, the local government is now providing pipelines and water tanks on a fairly regular basis. This is meant to be ‘clean’, potable water devoid of any harmful chemicals. Nevertheless, I do hope to see some qualitative tests conducted in the interest of security for the people living in the area.
The job of providing drinkable water is far from complete, considering the nineteen colonies affected by the contamination. Furthermore, temporary water tanks cannot be considered a ‘final solution’ to Bhopal’s ongoing contamination.
In April 2011, The Photographers Giving Back Awards, based in Sweden, offered me a grant of 5000 USD, entirely aimed for the creation and implementation of a plan benefitting Poonam, and to also help her family overcome extreme poverty with a careful approach.
It will also be directed exclusively to valid emergencies.
- The children’s future educational needs.
My engagement with Poonam, her family, and with Bhopal’s call for justice has evolved into a commitment to return to this city , with my next visit planned for mid-August 2012.
I have just completed another trip to the city in April/May, and the family is rocking, despite the unbearable heat. More on this and our plans for the family will be soon published on this blog.
I intend to portray their lives towards the publication of an extensive book, and possibly a documentary. Prints will also contribute to a number of socio-educational initiatives for the children living in Oriya Basti, and in the other water-affected colonies of Bhopal.
I was gifted with the extraordinary chance of helping one of my subjects directly, but Poonam’s fairytale is far from over.
Visit after visit, I wish to witness her blossoming into a teenager, an emancipated woman, and later into a loving wife and mother, while also photographing the growth and improvements of her family as a whole.
I hope you will enjoy exploring Poonam’s world with me. Thank you very much for your interest.
Requests for involvement, sponsorship offers, donations of any kind, as well as opinions and suggestions, will be met with genuine gratitude and commitment.
Write me, if you wish to find out more.