Neglect Condemns Many to Death
En 1984, Union Carbide a abandonné son usine de Bhopal sans prendre la peine de la nettoyer correctement. Résultat : plusieurs produits chimiques létaux se trouvent encore dans les réservoirs rongés par la pourriture et la rouille, ainsi que dans les sacs plastique éventrés qui jonchent le sol de l’ancien magasin. Les eaux de vingt-six moussons se sont depuis abattues sur cet endroit, entraînant avec elles de nombreux résidus chimiques qui, en coulant vers le nord-est, ont causé de graves dommages aux personnes vivant dans cette direction.
Union Carbide abandoned its Bhopal factory without bothering to clean it. Lethal chemicals lie in rotting drums and sacks in warehouses open to wind and rain. Twenty-six monsoons have washed them deep into the groundwater, which flows north-eastward, causing severe damage to people living in that direction.
A study carried out by researchers at Sambhavna used satellite maps to identify hundreds of water sources including handpumps, bore- and tube-wells. Clinic staff collected samples of water used for drinking and washing along with data including the depth of source, reliability of supply and uses (drinking, washing, watering crops). The results, summarised colony by colony, are disastrous.
The Municipal Corporation’s tankers and pipes do not bring in enough water for people’s needs. The pipe network is badly maintained. Leaks and breaks in the pipes allow water to become contaminated by sewage. Most people use private hand-pumps or bore-wells and drink groundwater which is often filthy and smells like solvent. Many suffer from skin problems after drinking or bathing in the water.
Many of the chemicals that are leaking from the factory and poisoning the drinking water are toxic to the kidneys, so it is not surprising to find an epidemic of renal problems emerging alongside those of cancers and damaged births.
A lot of people drinking the poisons were already gas-affected. A large proportion have diabetes, which if left undetected can lead to renal failure. Careless prescribing has led to many people taking medicines, including painkillers like paracetamol, that have a potentially toxic impact on the kidneys, which may have been directly damaged by the toxic gases.
The Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Centre (BMHRC), which is meant to prioritise gas victims, has a fully-fledged nephrology department, but the gas-affected are routinely denied dialysis, crucial in saving lives and halting further damage, to give the priority to fee-paying patients. Gas victims – contemptuously referred to as ‘gaisees’ at BMHRC – are told to come back in three months. While waiting, many die.
Union Carbide and its parent Dow Chemical continue to refuse to clean the factory.