Survivors of the 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy on Saturday staged a protest in front of the now-defunct Union Carbide factory here on the 32nd anniversary of the world’s worst industrial disaster, with activists alleging that toxic waste lying there was still to be cleaned up. They burnt the US flags and effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, claiming that the Union Government was not forcing the Dow Chemical, which acquired Union Carbide, to own up its responsibility towards the victims and clean-up of the factory.
Gas leakage from Union Carbide, which made pesticides, on the night of December 2-3, 1984, left more than 3,000 people dead and many more injured. Abdul Jabbar and other leaders of NGOs working for gas leak victims demanded that governments of USA and India stop sheltering the MNCs and ensure justice and life of dignity for the half million survivors.
“We burnt the US flag and effigies of Uncle Sam and logos of two US companies — Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals — as they have done nothing to end the sufferings of the victims for the last 32 years,” said Satinath Sarangi and Rachna Dhingra of `Bhopal Group for Information and Action’.
“The abandoned factory’s toxic waste is still killing and maiming people living around its premises,” Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogee Sangharsh Morcha president, Balkrishna Namdeo said.
Rashida Bi, president of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, said those living in the radius of five km of the factory were forced to drink the contaminated underground water and “are contracting deadly diseases due to the seepage of toxic waste dumped in the factory premises”. Union Carbide dumped 11 lakh tonnes of toxic waste on the premises during its 14 years of operations, she claimed.
“Right now, 340 tonnes of toxic waste is lying on the ground. The Dow Chemical Company which took over Carbide in 2001 is responsible for cleaning up the contamination of soil and groundwater in more than 50 sq km area around the factory,” she said.
“The MP government is aware of the contamination of groundwater here since 1991. Yet, till today it has taken no legal steps to make Dow Chemical pay for the clean-up, or for the adverse health effects on residents living next to the abandoned factory,” Sarangi said.
“In the last two years, Dow Chemical has ignored four judicial notices asking its representative to appear before the Bhopal district court. And now it is merging with another American multinational, DuPont, to further evade the civil, criminal and environmental liabilities of Bhopal,” said Rashida Bi.
According to Namdeo, “the killer factory was set up and run in Bhopal with help from the US government, which is now sheltering both Dow Chemical and (defunct) Union Carbide by refusing to serve the Bhopal court’s notices to Dow. This year, within one month, 1,27,000 people wrote to the US President’s office asking that the Department of Justice serve the notice on Dow Chemical, and all we got in response was an apology for deliberate inaction,” he claimed.
“Our Prime Minister paid special attention to the menu for the dinner to which he invited Andrew Liveris, Dow Chemicals CEO, in September 2015, during his visit to the US,” said Nawab Khan of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha. “But he remains oblivious to the need of revision of figures of injury and death in the curative petition for additional compensation to the survivors pending before the Supreme Court for six years,” Khan alleged. ‘Children Against Dow-Carbide’ leader Safreen Khan also echoed similar concerns.