Union Carbide Bhopal where more than 15000 killed
The Bhopal gas tragedy was the greatest industrial disaster in the world that took place at a Union Carbide pesticide plant
in the Indian city of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. At midnight on 3 December 1984, the plant accidentally released methyl
isocyanate (MIC) gas, exposing more than 500,000 people to MIC and other chemicals. The first official immediate death toll was 2,259. The government of
Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas
release Others estimate 8,000-10,000 died within 72 hours and 25,000 have since died from gas-related diseases.
Some 26 years after the gas leak, 390 tonnes of toxic chemicals abandoned at the
Union Carbide plant continue to pollute the ground water in the region and
affects thousands residents of Bhopal who depend on it .There are currently civil and criminal cases related to the disaster ongoing in the
United States District Court, Manhattan and the District Court of Bhopal, India against Union Carbide, now owned by Dow Chemical Company, with arrest warrants
pending against Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide at the time of the disaster
The Union Carbide India, Limited (UCIL) factory was established in 1969 near
Bhopal. 51% was owned by Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and 49% by Indian authorities. It produced the pesticide carbaryl (trademark Sevin). In 1979 a
methyl isocyanate (MIC) production plant was added to the site. MIC, an intermediate in carbaryl
manufacture, was used instead of less hazardous but more expensive materials.
During the night of December 2–3, 1984, large amounts of water entered tank 610,
containing 42 tonnes of methyl isocyanate. The resulting reaction increased the
temperature inside the tank, raising the pressure to a level the tank was not designed to withstand. This forced the emergency venting
of pressure from the MIC holding tank, releasing a large volume of toxic gases.
A mixture of poisonous gases flooded the city of Bhopal, causing great panic as people woke up with a burning sensation in their lungs.
Thousands died immediately from the effects of the gas and many were trampled in the panic.
The gas cloud composed stayed close to the ground and spread outwards through the surrounding community.
The initial effects of exposure were coughing, vomiting, severe eye irritation and a feeling of suffocation. People awakened by these symptoms fled away from the plant.
Thousands of people had succumbed by the morning hours. There were mass funerals and mass cremations as well as disposal of bodies in the Narmada river.
170,000 people were treated at hospitals and temporary dispensaries. 2,000 buffalo, goats, and other animals were collected and buried. Within a few days,
leaves on trees yellowed and fell off. Supplies, including food, became scarce owing to suppliers' safety fears.
A total of 36 wards were marked by the authorities as being "gas affected", affecting a population of 520,000. Of these, 200,000 were below 15 years of
age, and 3,000 were pregnant women. In 1991, 3,928 deaths had been certified. Independent organizations recorded 8,000 dead in the first days. Other estimations vary between 10,000 and 30,000.
Another 100,000 to 200,000 people are estimated to have permanent injuries of different
The 26th anniversary of Bhopal gas tragedy
Twenty-six years after the Bhopal gas disaster left
the city devastated, the victims continue to be plagued with a host of
problems with no solution in sight. Survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster in India's Bhopal city are outraged by plans to throw open the site to visitors.
Last year in the first week of Novemeber 2009, `the Madhya Pradesh state
authorities announced that the sealed pesticide plant that leaked deadly methyl isocyanate gas on December 3, 1984 is to be opened to the public
for a week to coincide with the 25th anniversary
Supreme court verdict on May 11, 2011
Supreme court on May 11, 2011
dismissed a government petition seeking harsher sentences for seven people convicted
for their role in the Bhopal industrial disaster that killed thousands
of people in 1984. The seven employees of U.S.chemical firm Union Carbide, whose plant
leaked toxic gases, were given two years imprisonment by a lower court
last June for negligence leading to the world's worst industrial accident.
The court decision sparked outrage and forced the government to approach
the Supreme Court to seek a tougher penalty on grounds of homicide. But the Supreme Court said there was not enough reason to build a case
of culpable homicide which could lead to a stiffer sentence. "The materials produced do not meet the requirement (for homicide),"
Chief Justice Sarosh Homi Kapadia said as he read out the judgement.
The court's order will be a relief for the convicted, who include Keshub
Mahindra, the current chairman of India's top utility vehicle and tractor maker Mahindra & Mahindra . He was the chairman of Union Carbide
India in 1984.
On June 7, 2010, nearly 26 years after world's worst industrial disaster left over 15,000
dead, former Union Carbide India Chairman Keshub Mahindra and six others were
sentenced to two years imprisonment. The outcome of the case came under attack from civil
rights activists and political parties. 89-year-old Anderson, the then Chairman of Union Carbide Corporation of
USA, who lives in the United States, appeared to have gone scot-free for the present as he is still an absconder and did not subject himself to
trial. There was no word about him in the judgement of the Bhopal court.
Law Minister Veerappa Moily on June 8, 2010 said the case against former
Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson in connection with the Bhopal gas
tragedy was not closed. This is one case where justice is delayed
and practically denied. I would like to say justice is buried says Law Minister Veerappa Moily.
The Minister had on Monday said that the government will fast-track the
Bhopal gas tragedy case in the High Court as it has learnt "big lessons" from the verdict and could go in for a
stand-alone legislation to ensure that the culprits in such incidents are brought to book effectively.
Government announced a Rs 1265.56-crore package
Due to outrage over the trial court’s verdict in the Bhopal
gas tragedy, Government announced a Rs 1265.56-crore package and decided to file a curative petition in the Supreme Court besides
pushing for extradition of the former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson on June 24, 2010
The Union cabinet, which considered the report of the Group of Ministers
on the 1984 disaster, accepted all its 22 recommendations but did not
fix liability on anybody. It decided that the opinion of the attorney general would be sought on
whether Dow Chemicals or any other successor to Union Carbide Corporation
(UCC) or Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) could be held liable, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters.
The cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decided
that ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh would be given to the kin of each killed in
the tragedy, Rs 5 lakh to those who suffered permanent disability, Rs 2
lakh each to people who suffered cancer and total renal failure and Rs 1
lakh to those with temporary disability. The ex-gratia would benefit 45,000 affected people and the amount would
be paid after adjusting the compensation already paid, Soni said. The government also announced various packages for remediation,
rehabilitation and other measures, taking the total spending to Rs 1265.56 crore.
The cabinet decided that additional material in support of the request
for extradition of Anderson may be put together by concerned agencies
and the External Affairs Ministry would thereafter press the request for
extradition with the US government, she said. India had made requests for Anderson’s extradition earlier, the last
being in 2008, but these have not been entertained by the United States.
It was also decided that a curative petition may be filed in the Supreme Court for reconsideration of its judgement of September 9,
1996, by which the “graver sections” of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) were
quashed against the accused and the trial was confined to offence under
Section 304 (A), Soni said. The dilution of charges had ensured that the accused could get only two years of maximum imprisonment.
There has been a national outrage over quantum of punishment after the
Bhopal trial court gave the maximum punishment to some of the accused on June 7.
The Cabinet decided that an appeal will be filed in the Sessions Court
against the judgment of the trial court to correct the error in the sentences imposed on the accused under different sections, Soni said.
The errors pertain to the term of imprisonment (Section 338), the amount
of fine (Section 304A), and the direction that the sentences shall run concurrently.
Campaigners dismiss Bhopal compensation as insufficient.
Campaigners say that the $280m compensation package is based on outdated
numbers of the dead and the maimed. They say that 525,000 people have
died or been disabled by the toxic gas during the leak and its aftermath.
Campaigners also want the government to treat the bulk of victims as
"permanently injured", instead of "temporarily injured", since they have
to visit hospitals regularly for treatment. They also want them to receive more compensation.
Who is responsible for Bhopal gas tragedy?
On June 24, 2010, to repeated questions on who was liable for the tragedy, Soni said the
attorney general will examine the issue. “We have to wait for the AG’s advice,” she said.
Asked whether any timeline has been set for the AG’s advice, she replied
in the negative but said “the sense of urgency is all around” and the AG
would also submit his opinion in the shortest possible time. Appropriate applications will be filed before the courts concerned and
request the courts, especially the High Court, to expeditiously decide
the question of liability of the Dow Chemicals Company and/ or any other successor to UCC/UCIL, she said.
. PC Alexander, the principal secretary to Rajiv Gandhi, has hinted that
the prime minister might have taken the decision to release the former
chairman of Union Carbide Corp Warren Anderson in consultation with Arjun Singh, the then
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, media reports say.
According Headlines Today, Alexander said Anderson could not have
escaped without the help of the state government and that he was let go
keeping in mind the larger interest and under pressure. Arjun Singh met Rajiv Gandhi after a Cabinet Committee Political Affairs
meeting and that Anderson was supposed to be out under house arrest and all senior officials were in the dark about his release.
Attesting the same thing, a CNN-IBN/ report said that a declassified
CIA documents show that Anderson was released after being arrested on
December 7 on the orders of the Rajiv Gandhi government. The documents were dated dated 8 December 1984 a day after Anderson left
India and five days after the deadly gas leaked from Union Carbide's
Bhopal plant. On December 7, Warren Anderson was arrested but was later released the
same day and was flown out of Bhopal in a state government plane to New Delhi.
Environmental pollution around factory
A year after the gas leak, the local authorities collected 350 tonnes of
waste and left it in the factory yard, ignoring all safe waste management practices.
In the past two decades, several studies have concluded that the material containing toxins and heavy metals has leeched into the ground,
contaminating groundwater --- the only source of drinking water for 20,000 people nearby.
A 2004 high court order requiring the state government to clean up the waste has resulted in only partial clearance.
Bhopal still drinks poison: CSE study
A study by Indian non-profit organisation the Centre for Science and
Environment (CSE) last year showed groundwater three kilometres (two
miles) from the plant contained 110 times the maximum quantity of the
pesticide carbaryl deemed safe in Indian bottled water. "The factory site in Bhopal is leading to chronic toxicity -- continuous
tiny exposure leading to poisoning," said the director of the CSE, Sunita Narain.
The local government in Madhya Pradesh, of which Bhopal is the capital,
acknowledges the waste is still there. 25 years after the world’s worst chemical disaster in India left thousands dead and lakhs affected, Old Bhopal wonders whether the water it drinks is still toxic or not. Releasing findings of a study done November 2009, the Centre for Science and Environment
(CSE) said that water inside the 80-acre site of Union Carbide, and in a radius of up to three kilometres outside, contains pesticide far higher than the acceptable limit for human beings.
CSE director Sunita Narain said there was evidence that the chemicals from Union Carbide leak on the night of December 3, 1984 continue to poison the people through the water they drink. While piped water is being supplied in most areas, people are heavily dependent on borewells too.
Poisonous chemical waste
Another dimension of the ongoing tragedy of Bhopal is the poisonous chemical waste lying
around in the abandoned premises of the pesticide plant. Several committees have inspected it and found 44,000 kgs of tarry residues
and 25,000 kgs of alpha naphthol lying in the open since 1984. Various studies have established that the soil, ground water,
vegetables and even breast milk have traces of toxic chemicals.
Earlier research conducted by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Pollution Control Board,
City Environmental Laboratory (Boston) and environmental NGO Greenpeace also found extremely high levels of toxins like carbaryl,
lindane and alpha napthol in the soil and water around the factory
Medical Data Suppressed in Bhopal Gas Leak
In some shocking news, the government appears to have ignored the
long-term health effects posed to people after exposure to the Methyl
Isocynate (MIC) gas in the Bhopal gas tragedy.The government also cites the work of the Indian Council of Medical
Research (ICMR) in dismissing claims that exposure to MIC causes congenital deformities and cancer .NR
Bhandari, a principal investigator for the ICMR in five out of 20 projects told NDTV that the research data had not been published at all.
"All the data was collected, we were analysing and preparing it. When we asked the ICMR for permission to publish the data from time to time,
they said no, you need not publish. At no stage were we allowed to publish any data or give any lectures," Bhandari said.
The government is obviously in denial mode, but it is clear that thousands of people are still suffering from the effects of the gas leak
25 years after the incident occurred.
BHOPAL'S DEATH TOLL
* Initial deaths (3-6 December): more than 3,000 - official toll
* Unofficial initial toll: 7,000-8,000
* Total deaths to date: over 15,000
* Number affected: Nearly 600,000
* Compensation: Union Carbide pays $470m in 1989
Source: Indian Supreme Court, Madhya Pradesh government, Indian Council
of Medical Research
Bhopal Google Map
Union Carbide at Bhopal
In the early hours of Dec. 3, 1984, around 40 metric tonnes of toxic
methyl isocyanate gas leaked into the atmosphere and was carried by the
wind to surrounding slums of Bhopal in central India.
Activists say 25,000 people died in the immediate aftermath of the
accident and in ensuing years, and about 100,000 people who were exposed
to the gas continue to suffer today from ailments that range from cancer, blindness to birth defects.
Union Carbide chief