Tag Archives: Bhopal Resources

NDTV Coverage of Bhopal Disaster 2009-2012

In 2009 and 2012 NDTV aired multiple video segments related to the Bhopal disaster and ICJB. Below is a list of all known segments, available to stream via NDTV.com. Also included is one segment on industrial pollution in South India (Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu).

Video : Bhopal gas tragedy: 27 years onVideo : Bhopal gas leak case: Director liable?Video : WikiLeaks emails allegedly show Dow spied on Bhopal activistsVideo : Dow row: Activist invites London Mayor, Olympic head for a drink of Bhopal waterVideo : Have we learnt our lessons from Bhopal disaster?Video : जीओएम के सुझाव मंजूरVideo : Bhopal: The endless wait for compensationVideo : How did Anderson walk away?Video : Did Union Carbide ignore warnings?

2011-2012

2009-2010

Cuddalore

Video : More than 25 years later, Bhopal still drinking poisoned waterVideo : Anderson was not a priority on Dec 7: Arun NehruVideo : Anderson release: Arjun's decision?Video : Bhopal disaster could have been avertedVideo : Bhopal disaster: The ignored warningsVideo : 26 years after Bhopal gas tragedyVideo : Bhopal: Questions over political culpabilityVideo : Bhopal verdict raises issue of corporate ethicsVideo : Bhopal: 2 Years for 20,000 LivesVideo : Bhopal gas tragedy: Bail granted to all accusedVideo : Bhopal: Politics over tragedyVideo : Tamil Nadu's Cuddalore industrial belt facing safety hazards

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1984 to Now: The Ongoing Disaster in Bhopal

1984 to Now: The Ongoing Disaster in BhopalBhopal on the 26th Anniversary

Often referred to as the world's worst industrial disaster, Bhopal still remains a global symbol of corporate negligence.  Bhopal didn't start on the night of the tragedy; Bhopal still has not ended.  This tragedy of multinational proportions continues in the abandoned factory's corpse, as it leaks its poisons into the community drinking water.  It continues in Indian and American court rooms, as Union Carbide and Dow attempt to deny their responsibilities.  It continues in the generations of affected Bhopalis, as they face a wide range of health issues.  Bhopal lives on in the hearts and in the minds of thousands of activists worldwide, as they tirelessly fight for justice that should have come 26 years ago.


"Bhopal, sitting on the edge of a volcano…" -Rajkumar Keswani, Journalist, 1982

In the early hours of December 3rd, 1984, an immense cloud of poisonous gas began spewing out of the Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal, India. Methyl isocyanate (MIC) and other deadly gases moved quickly through the city, engulfing masses of people.

Bhopal Factory: Then
Bhopal Factory: Now
The Dow/Carbide Factory at Bhopal: In 1984 (top) and in 2008 (bottom)
(Photo Credits: BBC, S. Bouillet)

More than 27 tons of MIC and these other poisonous gases turned Bhopal into a gas chamber.  Choking, with violent convulsions, many Bhopal residents drowned in their own body fluids. Thousands died that night. For fear of compounding their legal liability, Union Carbide would not identify the chemical agents that fueled this catastrophe, leaving doctors to treat victims without an answer to their agony.

It was soon revealed that none of the six safety systems at the Union Carbide plant were functional, and Union Carbide's own documents clearly demonstrate that the company designed the plant with "unproven" and "untested" technology, cutting corners on safety and maintenance in an effort to save money.

Generations of Suffering

The gas leak triggered a disaster that is now widely recognized as the world worst industrial catastrophe. More than two decades on, around 25,000 people have died and over 100,000 more still suffer severe, chronic and disabling illnesses: victims are plagued by breathing difficulties, damaged eyesight, reproductive complications, rising cancer rates and a range of other ailments that affect nearly every system of their assaulted bodies. Further, a 2003 study in the highly-regarded Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirms that children of gas-affected parents are themselves suffering the effects of Union Carbide's poisons.

"If I told you that one of the world’s largest companies had run away like a thief in the night and left mountains of poisons behind for the last twenty-six years, would you doubt me?" -Gary Cohen, Activist

The Kids of Bhopal: 1984
The Kids of Bhopal: 2007
Leela & Amir – Victims of Bhopal: From 1984 (top) and 2007 (bottom)
(Photo Credits: R. Rai, Bhopal.Org)

Union Carbide left Bhopal without cleaning up the factory site, leaving thousands of tons of highly toxic chemicals in sheds, storerooms and solar evaporation ponds. These chemicals have leached into the earth, contaminating the groundwater source for 25,000 Bhopalis who live nearby. Testing in a 2002 Greenpeace report documented the presence of chloroform, lead, mercury and a series of other chemicals in the breast milk of nursing women who live near the factory. Union Carbide is still killing innocent people in Bhopal.

The Dow Chemical Company, based in Midland, Michigan, USA, acquired Union Carbide's assets and liabilities when Dow purchased the company in 2001. In the years following, and to this day, Dow-Carbide has refused to:

  • Clean up the factory site, which continues to contaminate the soil, water and much more
  • Provide just compensation to victims made ill by these poisons
  • Fund necessary medical care, health monitoring regimens and research studies
  • Reveal decades of the company's research on the effects of MIC and related toxins
  • Offer alternate livelihoods to victims who cannot pursue their work because of exposure-related illness
  • Stand trial before the Chief Judicial Magistrate's court in Bhopal, where Union Carbide faces criminal charge of culpable homicide (manslaughter) and has fled these charges for many years

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Dec 3, 1984: A Night of Death in Bhopal

Death and Chaos in the City

Death came hurtling of a clear sky on December 3rd, 1984. A cold midnight wind blew, with stars brilliant as they are in central India, glistening through the thin pall of cooking-fire smoke that typically hung above the city. Here and there, braziers were burning to warm those who were obliged to be out late. At the factory which so many had learned to fear, a thin plume of white vapor began streaming from a high structure. Caught by the wind, it became a haze and blew downward to mix with smoke coming from near the ground.

Map of Union Carbide factory at Bhopal, India

A dense fog formed. Nudged by the wind, it rolled across the road right outside the factory and into the alleys on the other side. Here the houses were packed close, ill-built, with badly-fitting doors and windows. Those within were roused in darkness to the sound of screams. The gases already were already upon them–in their eyes, noses and throats–and felt like fire.

“It felt like somebody had filled our bodies up with red chillies”

Remembers Aziza Sultan, a survivor: “At about 12.30 am I woke to the sound of my baby coughing badly. In the half light I saw that the room was filled with a white cloud. I heard a lot of people shouting. They were shouting ‘run, run!’ Then I started coughing with each breath seeming as if I was breathing in fire. My eyes were burning.”

Another survivor, Champa Devi Shukla, remembers that “it felt like somebody had filled our bodies up with red chillies, our eyes tears coming out, noses were watering, we had froth in our mouths. The coughing was so bad that people were writhing in pain. Some people just got up and ran in whatever they were wearing, even if they were wearing nothing at all. People were only concerned about how they would save their lives. They just ran. Those who fell were not picked up by anybody, they just kept falling, and were trampled on by other people. People climbed and scrambled over each other to save their lives – even cows were running and trying to save their lives and crushing people as they ran.”

“People simply started dying in the most hideous ways”

In those apocalyptic moments no one knew what was happening. People simply started dying in the most hideous ways. Some vomited uncontrollably, went into convulsions and fell dead. Others choked to death, drowning in their own body fluids. Photo by Prakash HatvalneMany were crushed in the stampedes through narrow gullies where street lamps burned a dim brown through clouds of gas. “The force of the human torrent wrenched children’s hands from their parents’ grasp. Families were whirled apart,” reported the Bhopal Medical Appeal in 1994. “The poison cloud was so dense and searing that people were reduced to near blindness. As they gasped for breath its effects grew ever more suffocating. The gases burned the tissues of their eyes and lungs and attacked their nervous systems. People lost control of their bodies. Urine and feces ran down their legs. Women lost their unborn children as they ran, their wombs spontaneously opening in bloody abortion.”

Immeasurable Devastation

Photo by Prakash Hatvalne

When dawn broke over the city, thousands of bodies lay in heaps in the streets. Even far from the factory, near one of the major lakes, at Rani Hira Pati ka Mahal the ground was so smothered with bodies that you could not avoid treading on them. The army dumped hundreds of bodies in the surrounding forests; a nearby river was so choked with corpses that they formed log-jams against the arches of bridges. Families and entire communities were wiped out, leaving no one to identify them. According to Rashida Bi, who survived the gas but lost five family members to cancers, thosewho escaped with their lives “are the unlucky ones;the lucky ones are those who died on THAT NIGHT.”  Read more survivor testimonies of the tragedy, and how their lives have changed since.

How many thousands died in the immediate aftermath?  No one knows, exactly. Carbide claims 3,800. Municipal workers who picked up bodies withtheir own hands, loading them onto trucks for burial in mass graves or to be burned on mass pyres, reckon they shifted at least 15,000 bodies. Survivors, basing their estimates on the number of shrouds sold in the city, conservatively claim about 8,000 died in the first week. The official death toll to date (local government figures) stands at more than 20,000 and even now, twenty-six years later, at least one person per day dies in Bhopal from the injuries they sustained on THAT NIGHT. Why did this happen? Learn more in Predictable and Preventable.

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We are with you

We, understand the pain and agony you have been going through all these years by the attitude of the Government, Politicians and Bureaucracy. We need to collectively work on the whole episode. Mr. Anderson must be brought to India to prosecute.

Through our website, we are promoting issues of development and creating awareness by providing free download of Telugu e-books on various developmental issues. Most importantly, we have been included a book on Bhopal Gas tragedy in Telugu (Language of Andhra Pradesh State) ‘Aa Roju Ratri Eme Jarigindi?” The Book was originally written by French author Dominique Lapierre and Javier Moro, titled Five past Midnight.

Aruna K Gali

Co-Founder, Vikasa Dhatri
www.vikasadhatri.org

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Bhopal: The Second Tragedy

The Second Tragedy

When the Independent speaks of “rape”, the Guardian of “disgrace” and Jon Snow of “a crime against humanity”, they are not talking about THAT NIGHT – but of what has happened since to those who survived it. Twenty-five years after the disaster, Bhopal remains a humanitarian disaster. Their breathless bodies no longer able to push handcarts and lift heavy loads, thousands have fallen into destitution and their families have learned the lessons of the abyss, binding cloths round their middles to give an illusion of fullness, giving children unable to sleep from hunger water to fill their empty bellies.

Abandoned Toxic Chemicals
Abandoned Toxic Chemicals at the Dow/Carbide Factory at Bhopal (2002)
(Photo Credits: Maude Dorr, Amnesty International Report [pdf])

The factory, which killed so many, lies empty now, the weather battering at it. Union Carbide left without cleaning it up. Tanks full of toxic chemicals have corroded and burst, dumping their contents onto the ground. Winds batter at loose metal sheets and gradually the buildings come apart. Worst of all, twenty-five monsoons (three months of heavy rain each year) have washed the toxins Carbide left behind deep into the soil, poisoning the drinking water of the same people Carbide gassed 25 years ago.

According to former workers of the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, while the factory was in operation, massive amounts of chemicals – including pesticides, solvents, catalysts and wastes – were routinely dumped in and around the factory grounds. These include deadly substances such as aldicarb, carbaryl, mercury, and several chlorinated chemicals and organic poisons. In 1977, Carbide constructed Solar Evaporation Ponds (SEPs) over 14 hectares 400 meters north of its factory. Toxic effluents and toxic wastes were routinely dumped there. Two tube wells dug in the vicinity of the SEPs were abandoned because of the noxious smell and taste of the water.

A 1990 study by the Bhopal Group for Information and Action found di- and trichlorobenzenes in water samples taken from wells being used by communities living near the factory fence lines, and phthalates, chlorinated benzenes and aromatic hydrocarbons in the soil samples taken from the SEPs. In 1996, the State Research Laboratory conducted its own tests on water and concluded that the chemical contamination found is “due to chemicals used in the Union Carbide factory that have proven to be extremely harmful for health. Therefore the use of this water for drinking must be stopped immediately.”

In 1999, Greenpeace and Bhopal community groups documented the presence of stockpiles of toxic pesticides (including Sevin and hexachlorocyclohexane) as well as hazardous wastes and contaminated material scattered throughout the factory site. The survey found substantial and, in some locations, severe contamination of land and water supplies with heavy metals and chlorinated chemicals. Samples of groundwater from wells around the site showed high levels of chlorinated chemicals including chloroform and carbon tetrachloride, indicative of long-term contamination.

Over the years, the groundwater supplying an estimated 20,000 Bhopal residents has become heavily contaminated by Union Carbide’s toxic by-products. Lead, nickel, copper, chromium, hexachlorocyclohexane and chlorobenzenes were also found in soil samples. Mercury in some sediment samples was found to be between 20,000 and 6 million times the expected levels.

According to a 2002 study by the Fact Finding Mission on Bhopal, many of Union Carbide’s most dangerous toxins can now be found in the breast milk of mothers living around the factory. Yet Dow Chemical, Union Carbide’s new owner, has suggested that the polluted, not the polluter, should pay for any cleanup.

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