When Union Carbide built their plant in Bhopal, India it was seen as a way to re-boost a dying economy. Promises were made that it would not only generate thousands of jobs, but also manufacture cheap pesticides for millions of farmers.
What Union Carbide’s presence in India became was the root of the world’s most deadly industrial disasters. The plant ‘accidently’ released toxic gases into the air killing thousands and causing thousands more to continue to suffer.
This was not Union Carbide’s first industrial disaster. In the 1930s, hundreds of men died from silicosis while digging the Hawks Nest Tunnel in West Virginia. This tragedy occurred during the Great Depression and jobs were incredibly difficult to come by. As they drug bodies from the tunnel, men waited outside in line to take their places.
It has been a quarter of a century since the tragedy in Bhopal and the factory stands abandoned like an ominous token of the past. Though behind locked iron gates, the factory remains a disaster within a disaster, several environmental groups believe. A new study has proven that the site continues to slowly poison the drinking water used by thousands of Indians.
Scientific findings show that the site remains highly contaminated – soil and water tests in October showed extremely dangerous levels of contamination. It is believed that the Union Carbide factory is leading to high levels of chronic toxicity, with even small exposures leading to a poisoning of the local Indian population.
It all began the morning of December 3, 1984 when 40 tons of methyl isocyanate gas leaked into the air and were carried to surrounding neighborhoods by the wind.
Over 3,500 people died as a direct result of the leak, but as deaths continued throughout the years following the incident, experts believe that at least 25,000 Indians lost their lives from the leaking methyl isocyanate. It has been twenty five years, but experts say Union Carbides carelessness is still claiming lives.
In Jayaprakash Nagar ,the community is dusty, unkempt and is a place many people who call Bhopal home just want to forget. The Union Carbides plant overlooks the community as a constant reminder of the devastation that took place here.
Many children who called Jayaprakash Nagar home when the disaster occurred are now suffering horrible aftereffects as adults. Many of the common side effects are bloated faces, thinning hair or hair loss and abnormal growths. Children born years after the incident are also suffering from poor health due to the effects the leak had on their mothers. Many children suffer from stunted physical and mental growth.
Though there are no definite numbers on casualties, estimates based on hospital and rehabilitation records show that more than 25,000 Indians lost their lives and countless more are still suffering the horrible side effects.
Experts say that more than 25,000 tons of toxic waste still remain inside the factory, which stopped operations on December 4, 1984.
It has been 25 years and it is now time for Union Carbide to be held responsible, for example by starting to dismantle their factory and the excavation of the polluted soil.
Union Carbide is now owned by Dow Chemical Company whose officials says they’re taking moral responsibility for the incident in one breath and in the next, pass the blame on to an unknown ‘disgruntled employee.’ The looming obstacle to getting the site cleaned up is simply the lack of corporate responsibility.
Experts state a clean-up would take a minimum of four years and treatment of the surrounding contamination would take anywhere from 10 to 25 years. Both operations would cost an estimated thirty million dollars. So clean-up and justice for Bhopal come down to greed and a big corporation’s failure to take responsibilities for the devastation that their presence caused and continues to cause.