AFP: India reverses decision to open Bhopal plant

India reverses decision to open Bhopal plant

BHOPAL, India — Indian authorities in Bhopal, site of the world’s worst industrial accident, have decided against opening up the factory at the centre of the tragedy, a local minister said Friday.

The controversial idea, announced earlier this month, was that the Union Carbide plant would be opened for a week to mark the 25th anniversary of the accident in a bid to dispel fears that the site was still harmful.

It sparked protests from victims groups who said the step would put people in danger and was insensitive towards the tens of thousands estimated to have been killed by the gas leak from the factory on December 3, 1984.

Gas Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Babulal Gaur from the Madhya Pradesh state government said the factory would not be opened because it could be seen as influencing voters ahead of local elections.

He cited a “code of conduct” which forbids governments in India from making any major policy announcements ahead of polls, which will take place on December 19 and 21 in the state.

“We do not want to violate the code of conduct. The factory would be surely opened up, but maybe in January after the election process is over,” the minister told AFP.

The disaster killed between 8,000 to 10,000 people within the first three days, according to independent data by the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), and hundreds of thousands more still suffer from the effects of exposure to the fumes and contamination of land and water.

A storage tank at a pesticide plant run by US group Union Carbide — purchased by Dow Chemical in 1999 — leaked over 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate gas into the surrounding densely populated slums of Bhopal.

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