How safe is Bhopal Madhya Pradesh
Ms. Champa Devi told me her story from the night of December 2nd to 3rd, 1984. That night, over 40 tons of highly toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) flowed uncontrollably from tank 610 of the Union Carbide India chemical plant in the Indian city of Bhopal, a subsidiary of the American concern Union Carbide Corporation. The company produced the pesticide Sevin here in India. It was the worst human-made environmental disaster in history to date. Almost 4,000 people died instantly that night, and an estimated 25,000 more, or perhaps more, over the next few days, weeks, and months.
Recording of a victim at the time, judicial
medical institute, Bhopal
medical institute, Bhopal
Autopsied fetuses of gas victims retained for future study;
Forensic Institute, Bhopal
Champa Devi lost almost her entire family in this accident. Her youngest daughter was paralyzed afterwards and she could not even speak any more. Her eldest son then became so short of breath that he took his own life. Her husband tore his bladder open when he fell and died of bladder cancer as a result of the injury. Her youngest son, who was also a victim of the gas, was killed in a traffic accident. After all these tragedies, Champa Devi began campaigning for the victims' right to work. After many empty promises she founded the aid organization “Chingari Trust” with Ms. Rashida Bee and devoted the rest of her life to fighting for justice for the gas victims. In 2004 they were jointly awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, one of the most important environmental prizes, as the most recent award.
The people who inhaled the gas during the night and did not immediately die from it subsequently suffered mainly from pulmonary edema, visual problems, paralysis, brain damage and heart, liver and kidney damage. As a long-term effect, there was an increased incidence of cancer, in women also miscarriages and miscarriages as well as infertility. In total, there are estimated numbers between 250,000 and 500,000 injured people in circulation today, nobody knows for sure.
Registered deaths immediately after the accident. Image taken with the permission of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, Bhopal
He left the country immediately on bail of about US $ 2,000. Later found guilty of negligent homicide by the Indian Supreme Court, the American government denied all Indian extradition requests. Warren Anderson was until his death on September 29, 2014 a figure projected for the anger of the Bhopal victims and activists: "Hang Anderson" was until recently one of the slogans, or: "Where’s Warren?"
Mentally disabled boy, Chingari Trust, Bhopal
Long-term hospital victims: over 100 free
Treatments for lung damage since 1984
Damaged persons then received an initial tranche of INR 25,000, and long-term injured persons received the same amount again after 10 years. Union Carbide India had sales of approximately US $ 200 million in 1984 and employs 9,000 people in 14 factories across India. The American parent company Union Carbide Corporation owned 50.9 percent of the shares, just over 24 percent of the shares belonged to the Indian government, the remaining shares were held by small shareholders. The worldwide turnover of the parent company in the USA was US $ 9.4 billion at the time.
To get an idea of the situation in the factory at that time, I spoke to a former employee of Union Carbide India. I met Mohammed Yaqub in his apartment. He is 64 years old today. From 1977 he worked as a maintenance worker in the factory and he is sure that he owes his life to this fact. At the time, the employees received safety training because there were always incidents. There was a fire once, and about a year before the disaster, an employee who came in direct contact with methyl isocyanate died. So Mohammed knew how dangerous the gas was.
“I was at home that night, I didn't have a night shift. We were still awake when it happened. I could already smell the gas, it has such a typical, pungent smell and I told my wife that something was wrong.
I took a few photos of Mohammed and he showed me his old company badge, which he should have handed in. But then he didn't find her, only months later, by accident. At the time, he was proud to be able to work for the American company. But they didn't make enough sales and they had to save on staff, but also on security. There was a separate cooling system for the “MIC tanks”, but that was switched off five months before the accident. The cleaning system for disposal and the torch for burning off escaping gases had also been switched off for three months. But he does not believe that these security systems would have prevented the disaster. No water should have entered the 610 tank, which experts later identified as the cause of the accident.
The liquid methyl isocyanate in the tank reacted with the water, heating up, becoming gaseous and expanding. At some point the safety valve burst and the gas flowed out of the tank. Only the reason why the water got into the tank could never be clarified, neither by the Union Carbide Corporation nor by the union. For the experts, there were three possible causes: confusing a water line with a nitrogen line, defective valves during cleaning work on the filters or an intentional supply of water, i.e. sabotage - this thesis was brought into play by the Union Carbide Corporation. The siren was also switched off initially so as not to worry the population!
Mohammed Yaqub, former Union Carbide India employee
Memorial for the poison gas victims of 1984:
"No Hiroshima, no Bhopal - we want to live"
One of the many families of victims: The grandmother has been since then
Gas accident, unable to walk, her husband died, hers
Daughter is healthy, the little one is also disabled
The problems of continuing to earn a living on a regular basis and the social and emotional difficulties associated with destroyed families have so far not been adequately addressed and recognized.
Experts estimate that up to 30,000 tons (!) Of toxic substances were dumped on the former factory site. Soil and groundwater analyzes by various organizations (NGOs, Greenpeace, and the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi *) from different years have shown that the entire site and its surroundings are highly contaminated with pesticides, chlorinated benzenes and heavy metals.
First and foremost, very high concentrations of the poisonous insecticides Aldicarb and Carbaryl ("Sevin"), but also of the semimetal arsenic and the metals mercury, chromium and lead were found. In addition, high concentrations of the dichlorobenzenes 1,3 and 1 were found in all soil samples. 4 and 1,2,3-trichlorobenzene detected, carcinogenic solvents that attack the liver, kidneys and lungs Samples of the groundwater outside the factory premises were taken at various points within a radius of 4 km around the premises. The profile of the chemicals detected there corresponds to that of the chemicals in the landfill on the former factory site.
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* The data on this topic presented here are based on this report.
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Working-class district in Bhopal, the former factory in the background
Old Union Carbide India factory
Old tanks in the factory are rotting away, nobody feels responsible
Former factory control room
Former laboratory today
Information sign in the former control room
Tank 610 from which the methyl isocyanate leaked
Siren tower on the company premises today
Warning sign in the control room of the former factory: "Your attention please: There is release of toxic gas ..."
You knew exactly how dangerous that stuff was.
You knew exactly how dangerous that stuff was.
Either they are broken or empty too quickly because the tankers don't come often enough. In any case, there is never enough clean water, and so they are forced to use the old hand pumps again.
The fact that it has not yet been possible to dispose of the poisoned soil and purify the groundwater failed both because of the financing and the lack of disposal facilities. That is why in 2012 the Indian government approached the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), which has decades of experience in the disposal of hazardous waste.
One of many water tanks in the affected areas
Formerly affected residential area with water tanks
Disposal by GIZ is no longer an option. ”Indian environmentalists were surprised by the unexpected decision. GIZ helped push the project forward, so it is strange that it is now withdrawing, said Rachna Dhingra from the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal at the time.
Residential areas around the ...
... former factory premises
At that time, old graves had to be opened and holy commandments of Islam broken. “I know,” one of the gravedigger complained at the time, “it is a sin to put two dead in one grave. May Allah forgive us - we put three, four and more in it. ”The Hindus burned all the dead, 25 at a time. But since the wood for the ritual burning quickly ran out, they were showered with kerosene to burn them, also contrary to religious custom.
Old part of the Muslim cemetery in Bhopal
When asked in an interview a few years after the takeover about the responsibility for Bhopal as the legal successor of Union Carbide India in India, an unnamed official of Eveready Industries India replied: “Eveready is not responsible for either environmental pollution or the disposal of toxic chemicals Bhopal responsible. Therefore we do not have to take part in any cleanup operation. "
If anything, then the then owner of the UCIL, the UCC in the USA, should be responsible for the clean-up work on the site. The facility was no longer on the company's books at the time of acquisition by the Williamson Magor Group. "
The Union Carbide Corporation itself shifted responsibility to the Indian side: “Laws, regulations and guidelines of the Indian government and the state government of Madhya Pradesh permeated all aspects of the planning and implementation of the plant from the start. No important measure could be adopted without the consent of both parties. The Indian government forced the UCIL to have the greatest possible Indian participation in the design, procurement, construction and operation of the plant and to minimize any foreign participation. "
Steam treatment of a long-term victim at Sambavhna Clinic in
Bhopal. After that, he can move a little for a couple of hours.
At the same time as the criminal charges against the Union Carbide Company in the USA and its former CEO, a court case against seven former executives of the UCIL company was ongoing in India from 1989 to June 2010. They were sentenced to two years in prison and a fine of INR 100,000 (approximately US $ 2,180 in 2010) for "criminal negligence," not "negligent homicide" as the original indictment, with an allowable bail of INR 25,000 (Around $ 550 in 2010).
Father with his two sons, 16 and 12 years old, both mentally disabled
Sambavhna Clinic Pharmacy. The
Medicines are free for gas victims.
In 2012, Wikileaks published emails from the Texan detective agency Stratfor that had been stolen by the Anonymous hacking group. Stratfor's customers included Dow Chemical, which had Bhopal activists spied on who were campaigning for compensation. Among them was the activist group "Yes Men", which started a fictional campaign on the 20th anniversary of the chemical accident in which Yes-Man Andy Bichlbaum appeared on BBC-World as Dow Chemical spokesman Jude Finisterra and campaigned for the suffering of the population apologized and promised $ 12 billion to help the victims.
The aftermath of that time is still present in everyday life in the affected suburbs in Bhopal. In the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital, not far from the former factory premises of the UCIL, around 40% of 1,000 patients treated in the hospital every day are still injured in the gas accident. Here, too, the gas victims are supplied free of charge. Another institution that has been providing medical care to survivors of the Bhopal tragedy since 1996 is the non-profit Sambavhna Clinic, founded by Satinath Sarangi and the Bhopal Medical Appeal organization. Around 45,000 people have been treated here so far, and around 150 patients come to the clinic every day. One of the doctors working there explained to me that the donations were almost exclusively acquired in England. This private initiative is not without controversy among the organizations that are committed to the victims, as it makes it easier for the state authorities to evade their responsibility.
Slum on the train tracks behind the
Union Carbide India's former factory site
On the left is an activist from the slum who returned from a demonstration in New Delhi that day
The train rattles slowly through the slum
This decision came after five women went on hunger strike on November 10th in New Delhi. The women were supported by 200 survivors of the Bhopal tragedy. They received a written promise that the data will be adjusted by December 2, 2014. “We welcome this important step by the government. Now Prime Minister Modi must ensure that his government's promise is kept, "said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International's director for global affairs.
According to a Greenpeace study, the costs of rehabilitating the poisoned site would be around US $ 30 million. Even if it were twice as much - in view of the extent of the pollution and the suffering caused, this is a possible sum to be financed by the parties involved. If only the insight prevailed that the previous conflict has led to nothing and it would make more sense to tackle the problem together, then a solution would certainly also be possible.
Then at some point, maybe in a few years, grass could finally grow over history.
Formerly affected area, JP Nagar Slums, Bhopal
Start picture: Abhi Batham, mentally handicapped;
is the assumed cause of the disability
Film: Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain
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