Processing Magazine

Indian police hold 80 Bhopal gas leak protesters

May 7, 2008
According to the Associated Press, police detained 80 people who walked nearly 500 miles from the site of a catastrophic 1984 gas leak in central India to protest outside the prime minister''s residence, an organizer said.

The protesters, including 52 children, were calling for the site of the Bhopal gas leak to be cleaned up and for survivors to be compensated, said Rachna Dhingra, a spokeswoman for Bhopal Group for Information and Action.

Guards took the protesters to a nearby police station soon after they arrived outside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh''s official residence, Dhingra said. They were freed two hours later.

Police officer Jagat Singh said the protesters came without an appointment with the prime minister, and protests are not allowed around the official residence.

The leak from the Bhopal pesticide plant in 1984 killed at least 10,000 people and affected about 550,000 others. A subsidiary of U.S. chemical company Union Carbide ran the plant at the time.

For decades, survivors have been fighting to have the site cleaned up, but they say their efforts were slowed when Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co. took over Union Carbide in 2001, seven years after Union Carbide sold its interest in the Bhopal plant.

The protesters want an official panel to work on social, economic and medical rehabilitation for the gas victims, and to arrange for the clean up of the site and drinking water in the area, said Nityanand Jayaraman, an organizer.

Jayaraman said nearly 10,000 tons of toxic waste was still lying in and around the site.

In 1989, Union Carbide paid $470 million in compensation to victims of the gas leak and said responsibility for the cleanup lay with the government of India.

Dow has also maintained that it is not responsible for cleaning up the site.

The plant is now under the control of India''s Madhya Pradesh state, which has agreed to pay an Indian company, Bharuch Environ Infrastructure Ltd., $220,000 to dispose of the waste.