News

    Studies Contend Bhopal Still Contaminated, 25 Years After World's Worst Industrial Disaster

    Supporters of victims of world's worst industrial disaster, which happened 25 years ago this week, are releasing new scientific studies claiming a continuing environmental disaster in the central Indian city, Bhopal.

    MIC storage tank 610 which overflowed, causing fatal gas leak
    MIC storage tank 610 which overflowed, causing fatal gas leak

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Supporters of victims of the world's worst industrial disaster, which happened 25 years ago this week, are releasing new scientific studies claiming a continuing environmental disaster in the central Indian city, Bhopal.

    Many people in Bhopal are still drinking water contaminated with dangerous chemicals. That is the conclusion of two just-released studies of communities surrounding the defunct Union Carbide pesticide factory.

    An estimated 8,000 people died within several days after methyl isocyanate leaked from the plant on the night of December 2, 1984.  Thousands of subsequent deaths are also blamed on the resulting gas cloud that enveloped the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh.

    Tim Edwards, trustee of the Bhopal Medical Appeal - one of the groups sponsoring some of the research - says groundwater contamination, caused by the incident, appears to be getting worse as time goes on.

    "This is the real part of the iceberg.  The tip is the surface waste but the real stuff is under the ground," Edwards said. "What these results suggest is that those chemicals are leeching through the soil into the rock underneath and into the local aquifers.  And, as more and more of the toxins drip through the water table, the concentrations are getting stronger and stronger."

    A boy in Bhopal carrying water
    A boy in Bhopal carrying water

    Among the study's findings: carbon tetrachloride in some of Bhopal's drinking water is between 900 and 2,400 times higher than World Health Organization guidelines; and, concentrations of chloroform in the water are double safety limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    Another study, by the Center for Science and Environment - a New Delhi-based advocacy group - concludes groundwater three kilometers away from the factory site contains pesticides at 40 times higher than the Indian safety standard. It says all water samples collected from neighborhoods surrounding the plant contain chlorinated benzene compounds and organo-chloride pesticides.

     

    Mercury on the grounds of the defunct Union Carbide plant in Bhopal
    Mercury on the grounds of the defunct Union Carbide plant in Bhopal

    Many people in Bhopal believe certain communities still see a high rate of illness, as well as births of children with physical deformities and mental retardation, because of poisons that remain in the environment.

    Indian government officials contend exposure-related health problems are no longer significant and that the plant site is safe. India's government has previously acknowledged that about a half-million people were affected by the 1984 gas cloud.

    Bhopal Medical Appeal trustee Tim Edwards says assertions of safety fly in the face of scientific evidence.  

    "I'm struck with a sense of absurdity, really, because the same politicians have been party to some of the nearly 15 studies now that are extant describing the extent of contamination," Edwards said.
     
    Union Carbide claimed a disgruntled employee sabotaged the plant.  Activists contend a faulty plant design or lax safety standards caused the toxic leak.
     
    Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide, eight years ago. The U.S. corporation says legal liabilities ended in 1989, when Union Carbide made a payment settlement of $470 million to the Indian government.


    Steve Herman

    Steve Herman is VOA's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, based at the State Department.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora