Bhopal: Continuing legacy of a disaster | DW Documentary

Bhopal: Continuing legacy of a disaster | DW Documentary

The gas leak in Bhopal in 1984 killed thousands of people. To this day, survivors and children are still affected.

One of the world’s worst industrial disasters took place in Bhopal, India, almost four decades ago. Surekha Lakkewar can still remember the evening of December 2, 1984: “Our eyes suddenly started to hurt, as if someone had rubbed chilies into them, and we could hardly breathe.” Tonnes of toxic gases had escaped from the Indian pesticide factory Union Carbide. Thousands of people died, hundreds of thousands were injured. Families cannot forget the Bhopal gas leak of 1984 and struggle with the aftermath up until today. DW’s Akanksha Saxena visits the remnants of the company and speaks to affected families.

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Video Transcript

Almost 40 years ago this Factory in bopal in India had a leak that released tons of poisonous gas those who fell never got up and everyone was just asking for one thing God give us death or Allah give us death the results led to a supply of toxic

Water which is still affecting locals it isn’t bitter it tastes weird these are chemicals that stay in the environment for hundreds of years and they cause extensive damage to lungs kidney brain cancers birth defects this incident continues to have a disastrous impact and has been linked to the deaths of thousands of Indian

Residents over the years the bopal gas leak of 1984 is considered one of the world’s worst industrial disasters it’s even harmed babies developing in the womb Sides pandwar is 22 years old his mother ma pandwar is feeding him chapati and mashed veggies for lunch sides was born with Cerebral poliy he is unable to walk sit or eat without assistance it’s difficult for his mother to provide him with the care he needs because she has her own health

Issues I have to clean him his diapers need changing he needs bathing and then I have to feed him he cannot do anything with his own hands whatever has to be done I have to do it to get him ready lift him on his wheelchair everything Ma is almost 50 and has many medical ailments including epilepsy she lives with her mother sua lar who at 70 years of age is the main caregiver for both Maita and her grandson sides ma started having seizures after the gas leak s was born two decades later with major health

Complications like thousands of other victims his story is a continuation of the tragic Legacy of This Disaster during the gas leak it felt like our eyes were burning and we could not speak it hurt badly it felt like somebody poured chilies in our eyes and as if somebody choked our

Throats sua’s family were all affected by the aftermath of the gas leak the catastrophe turned her world upside down after sadesh was born with neurological conditions his father abandoned him and surka became their primary caregiver before the gas leak we were a healthy family we had no medical

Problems we didn’t need any medication although we did all have some issues with our eyes eldest daughter had issues with her vision so she needed glasses our youngest daughter developed really severe health issues after the leak we all got sick and it has not improved since then we are always sick with

Something in 1984 40 tons of deadly methy isocyanate known as mic gas leaked from the pesticide plant in bopal 3,000 people had died within the first few hours official numbers estimate around 15,000 victims but activists say it is nearly four times that number the catastrophe led to significant changes

In India and for the first time the focus shifted to protect people and the environment from industrial accidents as a response to the tragedy the government introduced new laws such as the environment protection act but the company responsible Union Carbide never faced Justice though charged with culpable homicide it chief executive

Refused to face trial in India however the company did agree to a $470 million payout in 1989 methy isoc sinate is known to damage human DNA by interacting with proteins in 1985 the National Institute for research in environmental health and the Indian Council for medical research conducted research

Finding that 9% of the 10,048 babies born to mothers Expos opposed to the toxic gas were born with congenital disorders compared to 1.3% of the 1,247 babies born to unexposed mothers this data shows a strong correlation between the gas leak and birth defects but it was never release to the public

Activists question the motivations for keeping this data secret alleging collision between the government and Union caride along with its current owner da chemical one of the victims Rashida B is helping children born to exposed parents her Center chingari provides them with free Health Care and Rehabilitation programs she says the

Effects of the gas leak was also a disaster for environmental justice 340 tons of waste is in a room but underneath that the soil is filled with 1.1 million tons of waste and it continues to poison the surroundings the government isn’t talking about the cleanup only about the waste

In 2009 two Indian government institutes conducted a study determining the factory sites still contains about 1 million tons of contaminated soil 1 tons of mercury spillage and nearly 15 Tons of hazardous waste buried underground there is also 330 mric tons of toxic waste in the factory itself today the factory is deserted but

Goats are still grazing the grounds and people still trespass in what should be a containment Zone the area around the factory is densely populated and many reports state that the groundwater has become extremely toxic professor indumati nambi of India’s Department of Civil Engineering IIT Madras was appointed by India

Supreme Court to examine water contamination in the area in 2018 she tested 20 samples taken from around the factory premises we did find chlorinated compounds U at significantly high concentrations in these water so which were connected to the chemicals which were used in the Union Carbide plant and it is well known

Fact that these organic chemicals can stay around for decades after the spill occurs in accordance with several court orders and findings from various scientific studies the government is mandated to provide Safe Drinking Water to 42 different areas in bopal this is an increase from the 14 areas that it

Was responsible for just 15 years ago which indicates the wide spread of contamination L DVI another gas leak Survivor still depends on tube we it is not bitter but it tastes strange the chemical is still in the ground so I can taste it Union Carbide is there and we

Are here it’s not far at all according to scientists like indumati nambi the contaminant plume may have reached other areas and and she says that a more comprehensive assessment is needed and typically chlorinated compounds are uh supposed to be toxic the more the number of chlorine

Atoms the more is the toxicity some of them have been reported to be carcinogenic um neurological effects uh reproductive effects they have known to cause all those effects rashna dingra also believes that Union Carbide is the culprit for this catastrophe now the company is owned by da chemical the

Second largest chemical manufacturer in the world rashna is a social activist who has dedicated her life to fighting for justice for the environment survivors of the bopal gas league and future Generations she believes the disaster is one of the biggest corporate massacres of all time because it is how

Badly Union Carbide followed the waste management practices they basically dug up uh 20 unlined pits within the factory where they used to routinely dump and from 1977 to 1984 they dug up three solar evaporation ponds where they dumped thousands of tons of toxic waste and their affluence in there that lining

That they put in in there breached in 82 carbide knew about this but never told the local people never even told the pollution control board even though Dow Chemical settled a US lawsuit and paid damages it has refused to clean up the site of the bopal league nor has it provided

Safe drinking water to the affected residents several plans to clean up the site have been proposed but nothing has happened the German agency for International cooperation GIS proposed airlifting the was to Germany for incineration but was forced to withdraw the offer after internal protests arose has the industry learned anything

From this tragic loss of life and the horrendous aftermath that followed we’re meeting with goam kotari who’s the head of the largest Association of Industries in pampur in central India to find out kotari says that many small and mediums scale companies ignore safety regulations dumping waste directly in pits the

Problem the cost of disposal is really creating a massive problem that is creating it’s very diff ult another problem is that the waste that is just being dumped in the closed units in Madia Pradesh closed nobody is taking care of the waste in those units taking care of those closed un this so

This is hazardous waste that is yes that’s the problem it pollutes the groundwater polluting the ground water industrial chemical spills and gas leak are still common across India our pollution agencies Pollution Control boards are not doing their jobs our Factory inspectors we do not have enough to in inspect inspect the

Factories and there is a simple Hazard happening all around us unchecked and unbattered and it continues because it is all considered business as usual the gas leak has become a major Milestone since India gained independence but the silence around the event has become deafening I tried to approach the

Minister responsible to create plans for a cleanup but he declined to appear on camera saying he’s not allowed to speak with Foreign Press back at her home surka is concerned about what will happen to her family after she is gone there is no one else here what if I get

Sick my daughter cannot do anything what will happen to them when I go can’t stop thinking about that these days the Bal gas disaster happened almost 40 years ago many people may have forgotten about it but thousands of families in India are still Affected

Video “Bhopal: Continuing legacy of a disaster | DW Documentary” was uploaded on 12/11/2023 by DW Documentary Youtube channel.