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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs