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Updated: October 13, 2011 11:15 IST

No bridge over troubled waters

Deepika Sarma
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Outcry: Documentary filmmaker Jaya Chela Drolma hopes to build up international pressure to highlight their plight. Photo: K. Murali Kumar
The Hindu
Outcry: Documentary filmmaker Jaya Chela Drolma hopes to build up international pressure to highlight their plight. Photo: K. Murali Kumar

The fluoridation of Australia's drinking water supply is a matter of concern for its citizens

Australia gets plenty of tourists from India; surely they ought to be told that they're drinking poisoned water?” says Jaya Chela Drolma, her blue eyes flashing as she talks about the fluoridation of Australia's water supply. Fire Water: Australia's Industrial Fluoridation Disgrace, a documentary film on fluoridation that Jaya produced and directed, was shown here at the Alliance Francaise de Bangalore as part of the international travelling film festival ‘Voices from the Waters'.

A project that is entirely community-funded, Fire Water highlights the Australian government's gradual introduction of fluoride into the country's drinking water supply, a few towns at a time, on the pretext of medicating residents. The film brings to light an alarming issue that is heartbreakingly familiar: the influencing of government health policy by industry. “It's not pharmaceutical-grade fluoride that's being added. We're talking unmonitored doses of industrial waste here,” Jaya says, pointing out that the additives come from fertilizer manufacturers and contain heavy metals like uranium.

This “forced poisoning”, is a subject Jaya claims the Australian mainstream media refuses to touch. In the absence of public debate, and the government's tight-lipped stance, the only option available seems to be to spread awareness. “No legal or political avenues are open to us, so all we're left with is educating people.” With Fire Water available for viewing on the Internet and all references and individual interviews painstakingly documented on the film's website, there is plenty of information available to those looking for it, and the argument against Australia's system of fluoridation is certainly compelling. The inputs from doctors, dentists, fluoride-sensitive sufferers, elected representatives, a whistle-blower and others combine to paint a troubling picture.

The documentary itself may be rather long, poorly shot, but the energy and determination behind the project punches its way through. Here in Bangalore, along with the film's writer-researcher, Daniel Zalec, Jaya hopes that raising awareness will help build international pressure, forcing the Australian government to prioritise public health over industrial interests. “It's so disempowering,” she says, “to see your government not give a fig.” But counting activism as the best way forward, Jaya indicates no desire to back down in her fight for the rights of citizens.

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