Web posted at: 3/26/2006 7:21:6
Source ::: AFP
NEW DELHI: After walking for over a month through sometimes scorching heat, survivors of the deadly 1984 Bhopal gas leak arrived in the Indian capital yesterday demanding redress from India’s leaders.
“It’s been 21 years, it’s been too long,” said the some 40 men and women as they arrived at a park in central Delhi where other protesters greeted them with marigold garlands.
They had walked almost 800km from Bhopal, in central Madhya Pradesh state, starting on February 20.
The marchers demanded justice for the victims and survivors of the poisoning by 40 tonnes of lethal methyl isocyanate gas that seeped into Bhopal from a Union Carbide plant just before midnight on December 2, 1984.
More than 3,500 people died immediately from the gas leak, but the death toll has since climbed to more than 15,000, according to government figures.
Bhopal rights activists say the real toll is double that while Amnesty International estimated last year that between 22,000 and 25,000 people had died as a result of the tragedy.
Protesters are calling for better medical treatment, clean up of persisting pollution and the supply of uncontaminated piped water from a nearby dam to residents of neighborhoods surrounding the factory, shut since the leak.
The survivors have threatened a hunger strike if their demands fail to get a positive response from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“We have received an assurance that the prime minister or Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi would meet with us between March 27 and 31,” Nityanand Jayaraman, spokesman for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, said.
Officials say about 800,000 people still suffer from various after-effects from inhaling the poisonous fumes. “Our lives have gone by but we want things to be better for future generations,” said Shajadibi, 49, who lives near the plant.
“The water we drink is poisoned, chemicals have even been found in the breast milk of women who live there,” said the survivor and activist, who goes by one name.
Protesters blame toxins in the groundwater for the illnesses, including cancers, that affect many who live around the plant.