E!Sharp magazine, August 2009
Please download the appeal and place it on noticeboards where it will be seen. The full text is below.
You have the power to stop more children being born malformed. Will you use it?
BLIND, LAME, LIMBS TWISTED or missing, deafmute, brain-damaged, with hare-lips, cleft palates, webbed fingers, cerebral palsy, tumours where should be eyes, these are Bhopal’s children. The living children. The still-born often can not be recognised as human. If you want to break your heart, look at their pictures. They are too shocking to publish in a magazine.
These children live in areas where the water is poisoned by chemicals leaking from Union Carbide’s abandoned and now derelict pesticide factory. Twenty-five years after it killed thousands in the worst chemical disaster in history, the factory is destroying a new generation.
In 1989, five years after the gas disaster, Union Carbide carried out tests which found that soil and water inside the factory were contaminated with chemicals that can cause cancers and birth-defects. Samples were instantly lethal to fish. A confidential report commissioned by Carbide spoke of a danger to local drinking water, but the company kept silent, warned no one and did nothing to clean up. When a spate of birth defects began to occur in nearby communities, Carbide denied that there was a problem, and tried to portray those who expressed concern as troublemakers. Unforgivably, it abandoned its factory uncleaned, full of poisonous chemicals. Pesticides sift from rotting sacks, tars ooze from rusting oil-drums, barge-loads of toxic sludge lies dumped in lakes. Each year’s rains wash more poisons into the earth to begin journeys to new wombs.
Union Carbide, which these days is wholly owned by The Dow Chemical Company, refuses to clean its factory, or to compensate those it has poisoned. The ‘Polluter Pays’ principle applies in India as in the United States, but Dow, whose managers sit on Carbide’s board, says it has no power to make Union Carbide clean up its mess, or appear in the Bhopal court where it faces serious criminal charges and whose summons it has since 1992 been refusing to obey.
There’s no help from Indian politicians, whose mantra is foreign investment. The Bhopalis are an embarrassing problem which can safely be ignored. After all these people are penniless, friendless and powerless.
For Union Carbide and Dow, Bhopal is now just a PR problem. And whereas many Bhopal survivors can barely afford one meal a day, Dow since 2006 has spent an estimated $300 million on ads portraying it as a caring benefactor of humanity. Wouldn’t it have been better publicity, and surely better morals, to spend it on providing safe water for the families its subsidiary has poisoned?
Raïsa had two horrifying still-births. ‘Both my babies were greenish-black. One had a soft head with eyes not quite connected to the sockets. When you’re pregnant, knowing your child may be damaged drives the mind to dark places. I was so angry. Are we not human? Poor we may be, but don’t we dearly love our children?’
On December 16, 2004 the European Parliament passed a resolution that said, ‘Twenty years later, the survivors still await just compensation, adequate medical assistance and treatment, and comprehensive economic and social rehabilitation.’
Now it’s twenty-five years. In Bhopal the horrific births continue, as does the struggle for life and justice. Some of the poorest people on earth, sick, on the edge of starvation, illiterate, without powerful friends or political influence, have for a quarter of a century fought for their basic human rights against the world’s biggest chemical corporation, its allies in the US and Indian governments, and an army of hired lawyers, lobbyists and PR agents. In this struggle the Bhopalis have created miracles. Instead of overwhelming and crushing the spirit their great suffering has enabled ordinary people to discover that they are extraordinary, and out of this humblest of communities has come a remarkable flowering of political intelligence, public service, law,medicine, science, writing, music and art.
The survivors have opened a free clinic that has to date has treated some 35,000 people, pioneered safe, drug-free treatments for many illnesses, and won major international awards for the quality of its medical work. It is the only place in Bhopal where both gas survivors and those affected by the water-poisoning can go for free, first-class care.
If people with nothing can do this, how much could they achieve with your help? You have the power to help in many ways. The first and quickest is to make a donation. Please open your heart and give generously. After that there are many other things you can do. Contact us. Let’s discuss it. Dust off that old resolution. This time give it teeth.