The world’s worst industrial disaster
Thirty years ago a ‘deadly cocktail’ of methyl isocyanate and other gases leaked from the plant and killed more than 5,000 people – some say 20,000 – who lived nearby. The site has yet been properly cleaned and four legal battles are being fought in Indian and US courts with no sign of an imminent resolution.
Warren Andersen, Union Carbide’s chief executive at the time, flew to Bhopal and was arrested, but bailed and never returned to face trial for culpable homicide.
Victor Mallet writes for the Financial Times from Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh, that once housed a Union Carbide pesticide plant. He records that Bhopal residents, seeking additional compensation for gas deaths and injuries, also protest about the toxic waste from the plant in their midst which has contaminated the water they have been drinking for more than 20 years.
This is confirmed by Satinath Sarangi, an engineer who founded the Sambhavna Trust Clinic to help the gas victims. He has found that the evaporation ponds and unlined pits, contain potentially hazardous waste that can leach into the groundwater.
The victims, and pressure groups that support them, show no sign of abandoning demands for more compensation and a full clean-up of the site now owned by the Madhya Pradesh state government.
Dow Chemical, which bought Union Carbide in 2001, has been summoned to appear in a court in Bhopal on November 12th to explain why it has not obliged Union Carbide to attend the criminal case begun in 1991. Dow says attempts to link it to a plant it never owned or operated are “misguided and wrong”. Mallett ends:
“It just shows the failure of all systems, the failure of the government system, the failure of the judiciary and primarily the corporations – and the support these corporations have got from both the US government and the Indian government and the state government.”