When the clock hits five past midnight on Saturday, December 3rd, it will mark the 27th anniversary of the world’s worst industrial accident at Bhopal, India . On this date in 1984, Union Carbide’s Bhopal pesticide production plant accidentally released a deadly gas, Methyl Isocyanate or MIC, into the surrounding community. It is estimated that more than 20,000 people have lost their lives due to complications resulting from their exposure to the gas.
The Bhopal chemical release stands as the foremost example of the dangers of unchecked corporate greed. Among falling profits on its pesticide, Sevin, Union Carbide , in an effort to save on operating costs, disabled many of the safeguards that could have prevented a large-scale chemical release.
During the evening shift at the facility on December 3rd, MIC was released during a routine cleaning operation. The short story is that water mixed with the highly unstable MIC and an uncontrolled chemical reaction resulted. With all of the plant’s safeguards disabled, the chemical escaped its tank, caught the evening breeze, and blanketed Bhopal. More than 500,000 people were exposed. The city was completely unprepared to deal with the sheer number of injuries and deaths caused by the disaster.
Tragically, Union Carbide has never taken full responsibility for the destruction it caused at Bhopal. Instead the company has downplayed its responsibility, paying out a sum that was woefully inadequate to cover the medical expenses of the victims and the clean up of the site. The Indian government is continuing its efforts to recover an additional $1.7 billion for the victims and those still suffering from the injuries they sustained 27 years ago.
These days Union Carbide is a fully owned subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Company. Unfortunately, Dow has continued in Union Carbide’s tradition of downplaying the company’s complicity in the Bhopal disaster. What’s worse is that Dow clearly has money to burn—the company recently committed to a ₤7 million (nearly $11 million) sponsorship of the 2016 Olympics in London, England. Activists and Bhopali citizens have called on the Olympic committee to end its relationship with Dow Chemical until the company has committed to taking responsibility for Bhopal and its people.
You can help the Bhopali people send the message to Dow that it can no longer ignore the Bhopal disaster. Add your name to the growing list of people who are asking the Olympic Committee to ditch Dow until it takes responsibility for the lives lost and the people injured. Sign the petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/drop-dow-chemical-as-partners-for-the-london-2012-olympic-games-bhopal
For more information on the Bhopal disaster see Five Past Midnight in Bhopal