Mathematics for the blind... 21 years + 20,000 deaths = 0 shame

Feature story - December 7, 2005
NEW DELHI, India — What have we really learnt from the world’s worst industrial disaster – the fatal gas leak from the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal that has till date claimed more that 20000 lives? Corporations have learnt that they can get away with murder, Governments that Big Business is Big Money (people and environment be damned), and thank heavens the people have learned to FIGHT.

On the eve of the 21st anniversary of the Bhopal Gas disaster, Greenpeace activists held a demonstration at India Gate.

On the eve of the 21st anniversary of the Bhopal Gas disaster, we hold a demonstration at India Gate, New Delhi, the country's capital, to illustrate this reality. A graveyard of chemical disasters is created within an outlined map of India, drawing attention to the 1000 Bhopals across the country, where communities and the environment are imperiled by the unchecked release of chemicals into their groundwater, land and air. Tombstones and placards establish the 'cause of death' - toxic groundwater, poisoned rivers, contaminated lakes. The picture is complete with the politician happily hand in hand with the criminal Corporations, while people lie dead all around.  We have had enough, we say - We demand our right to Clean Water! "Bahut Ho Gaya! Saaf Pani Hamara Hakk Hai!

The leaders of survivors' organizations in Bhopal, in their pre anniversary statement are sharply critical of official apathy to the communities living next to the abandoned Union Carbide factory whose groundwater is contaminated with toxic chemicals. According to them, the supply of water in the last 18 months has been less than one fifth of the required amount and there was no plan yet for laying down pipelines to bring water from the Kolar reservoir. Despite documented evidence from Greenpeace as well as State agencies, that the ground water in the vicinity of the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal is seriously contaminated, the affected communities have still not been provided access to alternate water supplies. This is after the apex court in India ordered that they be provided clean water more than a year and half ago.

On the eve of the anniversary, more than 40 children all of them affected by Dow-Carbide's chemical trespass, lead a torchlight procession to the former factory site. Holding placards with their names and problems from which they are afflicted, they demand that Dow take immediate steps to clean up the factory site in Bhopal. Is this really due to the factory one may wonder, but as Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action points out, "Preliminary surveys in localities where water is contaminated reflects a birth rate of congenital malformations at a shocking 4 times the national average!"

How can Dow Chemicals sit back and let this insanity continue and insist that they have nothing to do with Union Carbide, though they currently own 100% of the company's shares? How can Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, dine with the Dow CEO Andrew Livieris and not raise the issue of Dow's liabilities in Bhopal? How come the State and Central Government in India allows the continuing poisoning of the people and environment in Bhopal?  The Bhopalis want answers. They are willing to fight to get them. As Rasheeda Bee says, "The only way to get justice is to challenge the power of the Corporation and Governments. The women of Bhopal are not scared and do not tire - we will fight for it. It is after all our futures and our children's' futures that is stake here."