Lone survivor. This elderly woman was badly injured when exposed to the poisonous gas, but survived. Everyone else in her family died. Suffering from her injuries, she has an uncertain future.
The clean up is long over due.
The world's worst industrial disaster left 8,000 dead and half a
million injured. But 18 years later the people of Bhopal are still
suffering from the pollution that has seeped into their groundwater
and contaminated their land following an explosion of the Union
Carbide pesticide plant in India that leaked over 40 tonnes of
The owner of this now abandoned site is talking about increased
sales. Dow Chemical is not however talking about spending some of
its increased assets on cleaning up the hundreds of tonnes of toxic
waste that remains on the site.
This week Dow chemical reported third quarter sales of US$7
BILLION. That's a five percent increase over last year's numbers.
With annual sales of $28 billion, Dow operates in more than 170
countries and a wide range of markets including food,
transportation, health and medicine, personal and home care, and
building and construction, among others they report on their
You may not be able to see their presence, but Dow products are
all around us.
The people of Bhopal aren't so lucky to be able to ignore this
chemical giant's role in their daily life. The abandoned and
contaminated factory site is a constant reminder of the poisons
plaguing their lives.
Ruth Stinger is a scientist working for Greenpeace and has
collected soil and water samples from Bhopal. "My research takes me
to lots of contaminated areas, but never before have I witnessed a
scene like this," said Ruth. "Survivors of the Bhopal disaster have
been slowly poisoned by exposure to these chemicals for the past
The clean up must happen for the sake of the community and the
many generations that will follow.
Along with members of the International Campaign for Justice in
Bhopal (ICJB), we presented new comprehensive guidelines on how to
safely clean up the toxic waste at the factory site. "Dow must
contain all the toxic poisons left behind at the Bhopal site and
clean it up using the highest possible standards, at least
equivalent to those that would be applied in the US or Europe,"
With the ICJB we delivered these guidelines to Dow headquarters
in the US and Europe and personally presented them to the Chief
Minister of the State of Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Digvijay Singh.
Not long ago on October 19th the state Minister of Gas Relief,
Mr. Arif Akeel told The Indian Express: "We will ask that Dow be
held accountable for whatever environmental damages have occurred
because while they inherited the assets they also become
responsible for liabilities."
The Executive Director of Greenpeace in India,
Ananthpadmadabhan, says that she supports the state government's
move to make sure Dow shoulders the costs of cleaning up toxic
waste in Bhopal. "Why should taxpayers in a country with a national
average earning of USD 460 pay to clean up the waste of a US
multinational chemical giant that boasts annual revenues of over
USD 28 billion?" he said.