Bhopal 20 years on: polluted water, chronic illness and little compensation

The failure of the Indian government and an American corporation to tackle the after-effects of one of the worst industrial accidents in history has left a legacy of continuing pollution and inadequate medical care for survivors, according to a report released today.

Days before the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster in India a study has shown that survivors are still desperately in need of medical treatment and have not been properly compensated.

On the night of 2 December 1984, poisonous methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal. Thousands were killed immediately. Thousands more were to die from the effects of that night in the months and years that followed.

Now, Amnesty International has claimed that neither the Indian government nor Union Carbide have done enough to provide proper redress for the victims or to clean up the site.

"The disaster shocked the world and raised fundamental questions about corporate and government responsibility for industrial accidents that devastate human life and local environments," the report reads.

"Yet 20 years on, the survivors still await just compensation, adequate medical assistance and treatment, and comprehensive economic and social rehabilitation. The plant site has still not been cleaned up so toxic wastes still pollute the environment and contaminate water that surrounding communities rely on. And, astonishingly, no one has been held to account for the leak and its appalling consequences."

Survivors are marking the 20th anniversary this week by demanding the site is cleaned up and victims given proper compensation. Amnesty found the site of the factory is still severely contaminated, and is poisoning ground water supplies. The report details the case of Hasina Bee, a survivor of the disaster who still lives near the factory site, has been drinking the water from the hand-pump near her house for 18 years.

"When you look at the water, you can see a thin layer of oil on it," she said. "All the pots in my house have become discoloured...green-yellow. We have to travel at least two kilometres to get clean water...but my health is so bad that it prevents me from carrying the water I need from there."

The report confirms survivors' claims that far more died in the immediate aftermath of the gas leak than the figure of 2,000 claimed by the Madhya Pradesh state government. Amnesty's found that 7,000 died in the immediate aftermath, and 15,000 more have died of related diseases since 1984. It reveals that 100,000 people still suffer from chronic or debilitating illnesses. "The company decided to store quantities of the 'ultra-hazardous' MIC in Bhopal in bulk, and did not equip the plant with a corresponding safety capacity," the report says.

"UCC transferred technology that was not proven and entailed operational risks. It did not apply the same standards of safety in design or operations to Bhopal as it had in place in the USA. Unlike in the USA, the company failed to set up any comprehensive emergency plan or system in Bhopal to warn local communities about leaks."

Union Carbide has since been taken over by Dow Chemicals. The Amnesty report says: "Both companies used the new ownership structure in an attempt to avoid further responsibility for the Bhopal disaster".

The report says: "Efforts by survivors' organisations to use the US and Indian court systems to see justice done and gain adequate redress have so far been unsuccessful.

The report is severely critical of the Indian government for "its failure to assess adequately the risk from the Bhopal plant", and for agreeing to a "derisory" settlement with Union Carbide in 1989 without consulting survivors, and for agreeing that this settlement ended Union Carbide's liability.

In 1989, the Indian government abruptly agreed to end legal proceedings for a settlement of only $470m (£240m) from Union Carbide - a figure that was widely criticised.

But Amnesty found that: "Even this inadequate sum has not been distributed in full to the victims ... about 16,000 claims are outstanding, and most of the successful applicants have received minimal amounts of compensation. At the time of writing in September 2004, around $330m of the $470m remained held by the Reserve Bank of India."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall