FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Bhopal 20 Years Later

The Independent

The failure of the Indian government and an American corporation to tackle the after-effects of one of the worst industrial accidents in history has left a legacy of continuing pollution and inadequate medical care for survivors, according to a report released today.

Days before the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster in India a study has shown that survivors are still desperately in need of medical treatment and have not been properly compensated.

On the night of 2 December 1984, poisonous methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal. Thousands were killed immediately. Thousands more were to die from the effects of that night in the months and years that followed.

Now, Amnesty International has claimed that neither the Indian government nor Union Carbide have done enough to provide proper redress for the victims or to clean up the site.

“The disaster shocked the world and raised fundamental questions about corporate and government responsibility for industrial accidents that devastate human life and local environments,” the report reads.

“Yet 20 years on, the survivors still await just compensation, adequate medical assistance and treatment, and comprehensive economic and social rehabilitation. The plant site has still not been cleaned up so toxic wastes still pollute the environment and contaminate water that surrounding communities rely on. And, astonishingly, no one has been held to account for the leak and its appalling consequences.”

Survivors are marking the 20th anniversary this week by demanding the site is cleaned up and victims given proper compensation. Amnesty found the site of the factory is still severely contaminated, and is poisoning ground water supplies. The report details the case of Hasina Bee, a survivor of the disaster who still lives near the factory site, has been drinking the water from the hand-pump near her house for 18 years.

“When you look at the water, you can see a thin layer of oil on it,” she said. “All the pots in my house have become discoloured…green-yellow. We have to travel at least two kilometres to get clean water…but my health is so bad that it prevents me from carrying the water I need from there.”

The report confirms survivors’ claims that far more died in the immediate aftermath of the gas leak than the figure of 2,000 claimed by the Madhya Pradesh state government. Amnesty’s found that 7,000 died in the immediate aftermath, and 15,000 more have died of related diseases since 1984. It reveals that 100,000 people still suffer from chronic or debilitating illnesses. “The company decided to store quantities of the ‘ultra-hazardous’ MIC in Bhopal in bulk, and did not equip the plant with a corresponding safety capacity,” the report says.

“UCC transferred technology that was not proven and entailed operational risks. It did not apply the same standards of safety in design or operations to Bhopal as it had in place in the USA. Unlike in the USA, the company failed to set up any comprehensive emergency plan or system in Bhopal to warn local communities about leaks.”

Union Carbide has since been taken over by Dow Chemicals. The Amnesty report says: “Both companies used the new ownership structure in an attempt to avoid further responsibility for the Bhopal disaster”.

The report says: “Efforts by survivors’ organisations to use the US and Indian court systems to see justice done and gain adequate redress have so far been unsuccessful.

The report is severely critical of the Indian government for “its failure to assess adequately the risk from the Bhopal plant”, and for agreeing to a “derisory” settlement with Union Carbide in 1989 without consulting survivors, and for agreeing that this settlement ended Union Carbide’s liability.

In 1989, the Indian government abruptly agreed to end legal proceedings for a settlement of only $470m (£240m) from Union Carbide – a figure that was widely criticised.

But Amnesty found that: “Even this inadequate sum has not been distributed in full to the victims … about 16,000 claims are outstanding, and most of the successful applicants have received minimal amounts of compensation. At the time of writing in September 2004, around $330m of the $470m remained held by the Reserve Bank of India.”

JUSTIN HUGGLER writes for the Independent.

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
Jasmine Aguilera
Lessons From South of the Border
Manuel García, Jr.
A Formula for U.S. Election Outcomes
Sam Pizzigati
Drug Company Execs Make Millions Misleading Cancer Patients. Here’s One Way to Stop Them
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Agriculture as Wrong Turn
James McEnteer
And That’s The Way It Is: Essential Journalism Books of 2018
Chris Gilbert
Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal on the Move: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian
Judith Deutsch
Siloed Thinking, Climate, and Disposable People: COP 24 and Our Discontent
Jill Richardson
Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count
John Feffer
‘Get Me Outta Here’: Trump Turns the G20 into the G19
Domenica Ghanem
Is Bush’s Legacy Really Much Different Than Trump’s?
Peter Certo
Let Us Argue Over Dead Presidents
Christopher Brauchli
Concentration Camps From Here to China
ANIS SHIVANI
The Progress of Fascism Over the Last Twenty Years
Steve Klinger
A Requiem for Donald Trump
Al Ronzoni
New Deals, From FDR’s to the Greens’
Gerald Scorse
America’s Rigged Tax Collection System
Louis Proyect
Praying the Gay Away
Rev. Theodore H. Lockhart
A Homily: the Lord Has a Controversy With His People?
David Yearsley
Bush Obsequies
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail