AFP, 20th February, 2008
NEW DELHI (AFP) — More than 60 survivors and victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas leak began a trek to New Delhi on Wednesday to press for a clean-up of the toxic waste still surrounding the plant, activists said.
Forty more people are expected to join the 800-kilometre (500-mile) march from Bhopal in central India to the Indian capital in the country’s north, a statement issued by the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal said.
This is the second such march by Bhopal survivors in two years.
In 2006, the survivors went home after camping on Delhi’s pavements for weeks following assurances by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he would look into their demands for compensation and clean-up of the toxic waste.
“Two years after his promise, the lot of the Bhopalis has gone from bad to worse,” survivor Rashida Bee said.
“Our effort this year would be far more difficult for the government to ignore,” she said in a statement.
The disaster occurred on December 3, 1984 when a storage tank at the Union Carbide India Ltd. pesticide plant in Bhopal spewed deadly cyanide gas into the air, killing more than 3,500 slum dwellers immediately.
The toll has since climbed to more than 15,000, the government says.
But activists say the number of fatalities is double that.
They also say people still face health problems because of drinking toxic water and tens of thousands are chronically ill.
Activists say the plant site still contains around 5,000 tonnes of toxic chemicals and that chemicals have contaminated soil and water up to five kilometres (three miles) away.
The survivors want US giant Dow Chemical, which took over Union Carbide in 1999, to pay for the clean-up and health damages. They are also demanding that clean water is supplied.
Dow says all liabilities were settled in 1989 when Union Carbide paid 470 million dollars.