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

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora