No More Bhopals International Conference Report
More than 60 survivors of chemical exposure, environmental activists, medical professionals and other groups from different parts of India, Japan, Vietnam, the USA, Sweden and the UK took part in the recently held International Conference, No More Bhopals at the Regional Science Centre, Shyamla Hills, Bhopal on 4-5 December 1999. The conference organized jointly by the Bhopal Medical Appeal, UK and Sambhavna Trust, Bhopal succeeded in creating a forum for sharing vital information on the medical and social impacts of chemical exposure and on the empowerment of victims communities through participatory processes. The conference stimulated much interest in innovative approaches to environmental and occupational health surveillance and health. Similar to the victims of Bhopal, victims of industrial disaster all over the world suffer the apathy and neglect by established institutions. The scientific techniques presented at the conference have the potential to enable victims to become survivors and communities to protect themselves from industrial hazards.
Dr. M. P. Dwivedi, former Director, Bhopal Gas Disaster Research Centre presented findings of the decade-long epidemiological study on the health impact of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal. His data showed exposure related multi-systemic injuries and deaths continuing to the end of the Indian Council of Medical Research study in 1993. Mr. Abdul Jabbar, Convenor, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan spoke on the development of social and political awareness among the survivors fighting for justice in Bhopal. Mrs. Rashida Bi, President, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Singh narrated their nine year struggle for secure employment for gas affected women.
Mr Anand from the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujurat provided a comprehensive overview of the alarming increase of poisonous chemicals in land, water and soil in India. He enumerated toxic hot-spots in Gujurat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and other states. Mr Rohit Prajapati presented case studies highlighting the lacunae in the legislation regarding environmental and occupational safety. Mr Davis Baltz member of Commonweal in USA presented scientific findings on the risks imposed by endocrine disrupting chemicals such as DDT to the perpetuation of human and other species. He also narrated the success of the Health Care Without Harm campaign in bringing down the number of medical waste incinerators in USA and thus preventing pollution due to supertoxic chemicals such as dioxins furans and heavy metals.
Mr C. Surendranath from the Chaliyar Agitation Support group in Kerala described the slow and silent Bhopal in his area where the land and the Chaliyar river have been severely polluted by Grasim Industries. Mr Tani Yoichi from Japan described the long history of official neglect in compensating the injuries caused by Chisso Corporation to the fisherpeople in Minamata by exposure to methyl mercury. Ms Mac Thi Hoa of the Agent Orange Victims Fund shared results of scientific research into the long term and trans-generational effects of Agent Orange, a chemical widely spread by the US military over Vietnam in the late sixties.
Ms Shipra Bansal from the Communities for a Better Environment, USA narrated the successful work of air quality monitoring through community involvement. She described the use of low priced, self made, simple, air samplers, called "buckets" that are used by members of the "Bucket Brigade" to monitor air pollution in their community. Dr. Andrew Watterson, Director of the Occupational Health and Safety Unit at De Montfort University in the UK presented information on the science and art of "lay epidemiology" that has been used by communities and labour organizations to press for safer living and working environments. Mr S. Sarangi of the Sambhavna Trust described their ongoing work of monitoring exposure related deaths in Bhopal through the technique of "verbal autopsy".
Doctors, yoga therapists and community health workers from the Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal presented their experience in different aspects of medical care of the chronically ill survivors of the Bhopal disaster. Data from this free clinic shows that 75% of the people visiting Sambhavna have reported relief in symptoms through treatment by allopathy, ayurveda, yoga or Panchakarma Chikitsa. Dr. Ingrid Eckerman from Sweden, one of the medical advisors to the Sambhavna Clinic presented the encouraging results of the scientific study carried out at the clinic on the use of yoga in the treatment of chronic lung disorders. Members of Sambhavna asserted that the systems of registration, medical care and health monitoring developed at the clinic could substantially improve the health and health care of the entire gas affected community.
The conference ended with a collective resolution to work together for a global future free of Bhopals. It was decided that victim groups, medical and other professionals and environmental activists will offer their resources and skills to an international network for creative intervention in health care and monitoring in chemical disaster situations. Proceedings of the "No more Bhopals" conference that was funded entirely by donations from participants will soon be made available on this website.
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