Bhopal Gas tragedy anniversary: Survivors decry lack of relief

BHOPAL, Dec 1: Hundreds of Bhopal Gas tragedysurvivors on Sunday formed a human chain in protest here onthe eve of the 35th anniversary of what has widely beenacknowledged as the world’s worst industrial disaster.

Leaking toxic gas from the now-defunct Union Carbidefactory in Bhopal resulted in the deaths of thousands ofpeople and left lakhs maimed on the intervening night ofDecember 2-3, 1984.

The protesters on Sunday said the exposure to thetoxic gas and the waste dumped in the premises of the defunctfactory continued to cause them health problems, and demandedthat Dow Chemicals, the current owner of Union Carbide, paycompensation under the “polluter pays principle”.”Because of reckless dumping of extremely poisonouswaste within the pesticide factory till 1984 and outside it in1996, groundwater has been contaminated in places over fourkilometres around it,” said activist Rashida Bi, who wasaccompanied by Champa Devi Shukla, a Goldman EnvironmentalPrize awardee.”Since 1990, groundwater has been tested some 16 timesby government and non-government agencies. These have shownpesticides, heavy metals and poisonous chemicals, includingsix persistent organic pollutants, at depths greater than 30metres and distances of several kilometers from the factory,”she alleged.Nawab Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila PurushSangharsh Morcha said,

“According to the latest study by theIndian Institute of Toxicology Research, a Central governmentagency, the groundwater in 42 communities, with a populationof nearly 100,000, is contaminated and continues to spread.”He demanded a comprehensive scientific assessment ofthe area within 5 kilometres of the factory, and alleged anoffer by the United Nations Environment Programme to carry outsuch a study was rejected by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar.Khan alleged the Central government was ignoring theissue despite various reports, including one carried out bythe state government in 2005, showing residents, who weredrinking contaminated groundwater, were suffering fromdiseases of the eyes, skin, respiratory and digestive systems.Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action said more than 10 thousand families were exposed tocontaminated water over 20 years.

“The polluter pays principle which is followed byIndia and United States of America clearly makes Union Carbidelegally liable for clean-up of the soil and groundwater. Aftertaking over Union Carbide in 2000, Dow Chemicals continues tohold an illegal position that it is not responsible for thecontamination,” claimed Nousheen Khan of Children Against DowCarbide.It is the responsibility of the state and Centre toforce Dow Chemicals to compensate the victims, she asserted.”Instead, they plan to pour concrete over the site tobuild a memorial for the victims as cover up for thesecorporations,” she alleged. (PTI)