In 1969 the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) started operations in Bhopal, India with the hopes of profiting from the Green Revolution in the 1970s. UCC established a pesticide plant with unproven technology near residential areas of Bhopal. To cut costs, UCC compromised the safety of the plant and ignored warning signals of the imminent disaster.
On the night of the gas leak, not one of the six inadequate safety systems was functional. This leak left at least 7,000 people dead in the days following December 2nd, 1984. In the following years, more than 25,000 people have died and 150,000 are severely disabled by the long term effects of the gas and/or by the drinking water contaminated with toxic waste that leached from the factory site.
Keen on projecting a corporate-friendly image, in 1989, the Indian government settled with UCC for $470 million from an initial $3 billion request, without consulting the survivors. Most survivors got less than $500 a person more than 5 years after the disaster, a pittance even by Indian standards. More money was spent on cleaning individual seagulls and seals after the Exxon Valdez spill. Ignoring global protests, Dow acquired UCC in 2001. For more than 30 years, Bhopali survivors have been struggling against opposition to occupational, social, legal, medical and environmental justice from UCC, Dow and the Indian and U.S. governments.
UCC’s chemical wastes have contaminated a vast swath of Bhopal with dangerous toxins and chemical compounds. Abandoned vats of pesticides stain the factory grounds and acres of fertile land have been left sterile and desert – like by chemical seepage from UCC’s “solar evaporation ponds.” Children play in the wasteland despite the danger. Dow, having acquired UCC, carries the environmental liability to clean up UCC’s mess. The laws in India and the U.S. state that the “polluter pays” principle applies. In the case of Bhopal, UCC did not pay or clean up the land and water. It has become Dow’s responsibility to clean up Bhopal.
For more information, visit: www.bhopal.net