Of Bhopal Gas Disaster
By Jeremy Lovell
02 December, 2004
Read The Amnesty
decades after a leak sent clouds of lethal gas into the homes of hundreds
of thousands of poor Indians, the world has failed to either help the
victims or punish the culprits, Amnesty International said on Monday.
The Bhopal gas disaster
on Dec. 3, 1984, in which nearly 25 tonnes of highly toxic methyl isocyanate
escaped from a storage vat, is now known to have killed at least 15,000
men, women and children and ruined the lives of half a million more.
But two-thirds of the $470 million in compensation which majority plant
owner Union Carbide paid over five years later still has to be disbursed
by the Indian government, and no action has been taken against the company
or its current owner, Dow Chemical Co.
shocked the world and raised fundamental questions about corporate and
government responsibility for industrial accidents that devastate human
life and local environments," Amnesty said in a report, Clouds
"Yet 20 years
on, the survivors still await just compensation, adequate medical assistance
and treatment, and comprehensive economic and social rehabilitation,"
the human rights group said in an unusually hard hitting commentary.
It said the plant
in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, closed in December 1984
and lying derelict, had not been cleaned and was leaking poisons into
the water supplies that the local population had no choice but to drink.
no one has been held to account for the leak and its appalling consequences,"
Union Carbide Corporation
and its partner Union Carbide India Limited, and Dow Chemicals which
took over UCC in 2001 have publicly stated they bear no responsibility
for the leak, its consequences or the poisons still seeping into local
the firm of failing to tell medical authorities on the fatal night of
Dec. 2, 1984 the name of the gas let alone the scale of the release.
It also accused
the firm of still failing to provide full data on the cocktail of chemicals
involved, and the Indian government of prematurely closing down a medical
inquiry into the consequences and failing to keep a record of gas deaths.
at Bhopal was one of the worst industrial disasters ever witnessed.
But it was not just a tragedy of the past, it has continued to be a
tragedy ever since," Amnesty said.
It put the death
toll at well over 20,000, against the Indian government's grudging acceptance
of a figure of 15,000.
But the dead might
be considered to be the lucky ones.
Hundreds of thousands
of the survivors were suffering breathing problems, eye diseases, damaged
immune systems, nerve damage, memory loss, cancer, miscarriages, gynaecological
problems, impaired mental health and social exclusion.
Families had been
plunged into debt because of the inability of the breadwinner to work
full time due to health damage from the leak, and families who had since
moved into the area were reporting health problems from drinking the
Amnesty urged the
Indian government to provide safe water, force the site cleanup and
make UCC and Dow come up with more money and information.
It called on the
United Nations to draw up a charter setting out the human rights responsibilities
for businesses in the light of the disaster, and the US government to
force UCC and/or Dow to court in Bhopal on criminal charges.
The Amnesty Report Here