Bhopal 30 years ago and still hurting


B. McPherson
Dow Chemical, third largest company in the world, should be able to spare a few million to clean up this mess.
The people in Bhopal India are still suffering from the chemical release that has killed 25 000 to date. It has left many with respiratory problems, blindness and birth defects. Union Carbide, now wholly owned by Dow Chemicals(head offices in Michigan) had a pesticide manufacturing plant in the town. A release of methyl isocyanate gas spread over the town 30 years ago dropping small children where they stood, adults took a few minutes to die.

Residents of Bhopal marked the terrible anniversary by marching in the streets and demanding that the corporations involved and the Indian government treat them fairly. Compensation was meagre and spotty. A widow was awarded the equivalent of $3.20/month. Eventually this was increased to $12/month. Death payments were $1000 but only if deaths could have been proved to be a direct result of the gas leak.

Some Indian managers served short terms in jail for the catastrophe. No American citizens have had to face the Indian courts.

One of the demands of the people in Bhopal is for DOW Chemicals to clean up the contaminated site. There are still an estimated 20 000 tonnes of hazardous waste that is leaking into the environment. Groundwater is contaminated.

 Reported polluting compounds include 1-naphtholnaphthaleneSevintarry residue,mercury, toxic organochlorines, volatile organochlorine compounds, chromium, copper, nickel, lead, hexachloroethanehexachlorobutadiene, and the pesticide HCH.[5]   Wikipedia

The cause of the gassing of the town is not known. There are two main theories as to how the gas explosion happened. One says that a disgruntled employee deliberately added water to the chemical tank and the other cites negligence of maintenance and poor attention to safety.
The worst industrial accident in human history continues to claim more victims.


Sources:
Press Trust of India                         
Hindustan Times          
Wikipedia        

Amnesty International                                         

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