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Seven-year-old Poonam cools off from the August heat outside her house in Bhopal, India, the site of the 1984 Union Carbide industrial disaster

Seven-year-old Poonam cools off from the August heat outside her house in Bhopal, India, the site of the 1984 Union Carbide industrial disaster. Tens of thousands of people face increased health risks due to ongoing underground water contamination. Photo by Alex Masi

Alex Masi is an Italian photojournalist whose work focuses on children affected by conflict, pollution, poverty, and disease. His images from Bhopal have won numerous awards, including a 2011 Getty Images Grant for Good, which will allow him to continue documenting life in this poverty-stricken area.

"Bhopal is the site of the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak, widely regarded as one of the world's worst industrial disasters. The catastrophe left at least 15,000 dead, according to the Indian government, and many thousands more afflicted with serious health problems.

"But that was not the end of the tragedy. Most of the area surrounding the former pesticide factory now has serious deep-water contamination. The corporation, now owned by Dow Chemical Company, buried tons of chemical waste after the accident. Heavy monsoon rains soak the region each year, seeping through the buried waste and further polluting underground reservoirs.

"Yet I find the image of Poonam inspiring: a little girl wearing a simple dress and an earring, sitting alone, refreshing herself in the rain. She is free to run barefoot on the ground, without apparent worry, water falling on her cheeks."