Victims of Bhopal gas tragedy demand cleanup
December 7, 2009
Hundreds of people marched through Bhopal with torches before dawn marking the 25th anniversary of the world''s worst industrial disaster and to demand the cleanup of toxic chemicals they say still contaminate the Indian city''s soil and water, according to the Associated Press. The Union Carbide pesticide plant spewed about 40 tons of deadly methyl isocyanate gas into the city''s air, quickly killing about 4,000 people. According to government estimates, the lingering effects of the poison raised the death toll to about 15,000 over the next few years. Local activists insist the real numbers are almost twice that, and say the company and government have failed to clean up toxic chemicals at the plant, which closed after the accident.” Down with the government," and "Down with Union Carbide," the protesters chanted as they marched to the plant in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh state. Dow Chemical Co. bought Union Carbide in 2001. Dow says the legal case was resolved in 1989 when Union Carbide settled with the Indian government for $470 million, and that all responsibility for the factory now rests with the government of the state of Madhya Pradesh, which now owns the site. Activists say thousands of children born to parents directly exposed to the gas or poisoned by contaminated water are suffering from brain damage, cleft lips, missing palates and twisted limbs. Skin, vision and breathing disorders also are common, they say. In a statement, the government vowed to resolve issues of safe drinking water, cleanup of the site, continuation of medical research, and any other outstanding issues connected with the Bhopal gas tragedy. However, Babulal Gaur, the state minister for gas relief and rehabilitation, insists there is no current toxic contamination and dismisses assertions that the birth defects are related to the disaster. He says the diseases plaguing children are only a consequence of living in poor slums.