The Origins of Sambhavna
From the beginning, Bhopal survivors tried to look after their own health needs. They built their first clinic inside the grounds of Union Carbide’s death factory only months after it had gassed their families.
Treatments showed promising results until armed police broke into the makeshift shanty, seized all medical records and razed it to the ground.
Two other attempts to open an independent clinic were also thwarted. Despite everything, the survivors kept struggling. They asked a team of international doctors to survey the situation. These experts found survivors to be suffering “multisystemic” injuries and called for a network of community clinics to give primary care for chronic health problems.
Following a successful fundraising appeal, enough money was raised to register the Sambhavna Trust and begin working to fulfil a dream a dozen years in the making.
Sama-bhaavana: similar feelings, compassion
The Trust’s Sambhavna Clinic opened in September 1996. Our first clinic was cramped, a small building with only two rooms for 13 staff, but we placed care at the heart of every decision and act. So unused were they to gentleness, kindness and respect that, on having their pulse checked by our doctors, some of our first patients began weeping.
We decided to combine modern medical science with ayurvedic herbal medicine, panchkarma therapy, and yoga.
There were no reliable precedents for using ancient plant medicines and yogic asanas to fight modern industrial diseases. But since our first tentative steps 25 years ago, Sambhavna has established safe, simple, inexpensive and effective treatments for many exposure-related illnesses.
Among those we treat are joint pains, menstrual disorders, asthma, diabetes, hypertension and psoriasis. The success of our remedies is sustained, documented, and we have published important research in international journals.
The clinic works across local areas through our community health and education teams, who deliver public health initiatives that help over 10,000 vulnerable families.
The program screens for anaemia, cervical and breast cancer, menstrual irregularities and others and has greatly reduced diseases such as TB and malaria in local wards, inspiring 100 volunteers to work with us to monitor and improve health in their own communities. Together, we mobilised a ‘community shield’ to protect thousands of gas survivors from Covid19.
Our pathology lab has facilities for biochemical testing, microbiology and cytology. Sambhavna is the only place in Bhopal offering free PAP smears and colposcopy.
New Clinic Building
In 2005 we moved into a new building, taking on dozens more staff and greatly increasing numbers of patients.
Built on ecological principles that include rainwater harvesting and solar power, our clinic runs on the principle of collective management, making decisions by consensus with all staff, and is placed at the heart of the community.
There, we cleared a polluted waste ground and planted a large medicinal herb garden to grow more than 100 plants from which to make 80 of our own remedies, safely and affordably, using only non-toxic pest controls. An oasis of tranquillity, the garden also provides a therapeutic environment for communities in which the mental health impacts of trauma are at epidemic levels.
Sambhavna has so far provided free medical care to 35,822 people from the most severely gas-affected parts of Bhopal.
We have won major international awards and honours for the quality of our work, and are the only clinic in Bhopal providing free care to people exposed to water contaminated with Union Carbide’s chemicals.
Fellow feeling informs all of our work. Almost half of our staff were born in communities exposed to Carbide’s toxic gas and/or contaminated water.
Support our Work
For 25 years individual donations have been the lifeblood of our work. Please join the thousands of ordinary people who make it possible.