‘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.

No More Bhopals Picture Gallery

smconf1.jpg (5265 bytes)Dr Ingrid Eckerman from Sweden, medical advisor to the Sambhavna Trust playing her violin at the Sambhavna Trust’s Annual Day on the 4th December. Around 400 survivors and friends of the Sambhavna Trust gathered at the Ghandi Bhavan in Shyamla Hills, Bhopal to show support

smconf2.jpg (5544 bytes)Rashida Bi, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Singh (with Mr Satinath Sarangi, translating) speaking of the organization’s nine year struggle for secure employment for gas affected women

smconf3.jpg (6460 bytes)Ms Mac Thi Hoa of the Agent Orange Victims Fund narrating the problems still suffered by over 2 million people in Vietnam as a result of the spraying of Agent Orange by the US army during the Vietnam war

smconf4.jpg (4343 bytes)Dr Smita Khandekar, a gynaecologist running a twice-weekly clinic at Sambhavna highlighting the need for immediate research into the effects of the gas on the reproductive health if women

smconf5.jpg (5734 bytes)Ward Morehouse (centre), President, Council on International and Public Affairs, New York in discussion with conference participants
smconf6.jpg (7992 bytes)Friends and supporters of the Sambhavna Trust enjoying their annual day on the 4th December
smconf7.jpg (3969 bytes)Sushmita Durgvanshi from the Sambhavna Clinic sharing the successful results of yoga by people who suffer from respiratory problems
smconf8.jpg (6190 bytes)Neeta Gupta entertains friends and supporters of the Sambhavna Trust at the annual Day on the 4th December
smconf9.jpg (3948 bytes)Patricia McKenna, Member of the European Parliament speaking of her Motion for a Resolution on behalf of the Green/EFA Group in the European Parliament
smconf10.jpg (4587 bytes)Dr Deshpande from the Sambhavna Clinic explaining why there is a need for the ayurvedic alternative to allopathic medicine and demonstrating how gas victims can benefit from a combination of the two practices
smconf11.jpg (5817 bytes)Dr Ingrid Eckerman taking part in discussions at ‘No More Bhopals’
smconf12.jpg (8156 bytes)Staff of the Sambhavna Clinic singing at the Sambhavna Trust annual day: ‘Ye gaon hamara, this village is ours, ye gali hamari, this street is ours, ye basti hamse hai, this area is ours, hai kaam hamse hai, this work is ours’
smconf13.jpg (6211 bytes)The Clean Air Island Players, a physical theatre group from Bombay give a performance based on the gas disaster and the lives of the survivors, a play without words
smconf14.jpg (4034 bytes)Amita Gupta from the Sambhavna Clinic speaking of the regular yoga workshops held in the community
smconf15.jpg (7235 bytes)‘No More Bhopals’ was used as a starting point for many of the presentations and brought many people together in the local, national and global fight against toxic pollution and corporate crime
smconf16.jpg (4423 bytes)Professor Andrew Watterson, Director of Occupational Health and Safety Unit at De Montfort University in the UK demonstrating how ‘lay epidemiology’ can be used by communities to press for safer living conditions