Managing Trustee The Bhopal Medical Appeal
Union Carbide's Second Poisoning of Bhopal
"I am standing in the middle of what would appropriately be called the dead zone...where Union Carbide operatives were dumping catalysts, solvents and processed waste from as early as 1969 to 1984."
For fifteen years before the gas disaster Union Carbide had routinely dumped highly toxic chemical wastes inside and outside its factory site. Some were buried, some simply lay heaped on the soil, open to the elements. Thousands of tons of pesticides, solvents, chemical catalysts and by-products lay strewn across 16 acres inside the site. Huge ‘evaporation ponds’ covering an area of 35 acres outside the factory received thousands of gallons of virulent liquid wastes.
After the catastrophic gas leak, the factory was locked up and left to rot, with all the chemicals and wastes still there. Union Carbide left the factory and its surrounds without cleaning them.
Thousands of families in Bhopal have been drinking water contaminated with pesticides, chlorinated organic compounds and heavy metals for decades. Union Carbide’s US managers were aware of the danger of groundwater pollution from the factory in Bhopal. According to the leader of one of the survivors’ organisations, Rashida Bee:
‘As early as 1972, they had discussed various proposals to stop it happening – but they ignored all of them. Instead, knowing the dangers, they okayed the dumping of thousands of tons of solid and liquid chemical waste in and outside the factory. They knew it would poison our water and our daily lives and they did it anyway.’
Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla brought a team of doctors from Delhi to assess the problems of children in the Bhopal bastis where water is poisoned by the factory. What they found amazed them: processions of parents bringing children with cerebral palsy, deafness, eye problems, tumours, cleft lips and palates. Many had withered or malformed limbs. Some of the children could not speak, but lay helpless in their mothers’ arms. The children’s parents had either been exposed to poison gas on the dreadful night of December 2nd, 1984, or else had drunk and washed in water poisoned by chemicals leaking from the factory. Some families had been poisoned first by the gases and then again by the water.