Bhopal Still Suffers from Toxic Waste

By Jonathan Adams Jul 07, 2008

Almost 25 years after the deadly pesticide poison from a Union Carbide factory killed thousands, Bhopal residents are still hurting. With hundreds of tons of waste still not removed from the site, residents have seen the effects of the toxic remains that have seeped into the water and soil. In this case it seems both corporate and government inaction can be blamed for the numerous birth defects in the region. Dow Chemical Company says it’s not their mess to clean up while India says they want help disposing of the waste. Meanwhile, Bhopal families are still trying to live in this wasteland and they are paying a hefty price.

In 2005, a state-financed study called for long-term epidemiological studies to determine the impact of contaminated drinking water, concluding that while the levels of toxic contaminants were not very high, water and soil contamination had caused an increase in respiratory and gastrointestinal ailments. In the Shiv Nagar slum about half a mile from the factory, there is a boy, Akash, who was born with an empty socket for a left eye. Now 6, he cannot see properly or speak. He is a cheerful child who plays in the lanes near his house. His father, Shobha Ram, a maker of sweets who bought land here many years after the gas leak and built himself a two-room house, said the boy’s afflictions were caused by the hand-pumped well from where his family drew water on the edge of the sludge pond for years. He said it had not occurred to him that the water could be laced with pesticides. “We knew the gas incident took place,” he said. “We never thought the contaminated water would come all the way to our house.” The stories repeat themselves in the nearby slums. In Blue Moon, Muskan, a 2-year-old girl, cannot walk, speak or understand what is happening around her. Her father, Anwar, blames the water. In Arif Nagar, Nawab and Hassan Mian, brothers who are 8 and 12, move through their house like newly hatched birds, barely able to stand. They have no control over their muscles. Their mother, Fareeda Bi, is unsure of exactly what caused their ailment, but she, too, blames the water. “There are more children like this in the neighborhood,” she said, “who cannot walk, who cannot see.” [New York Times.]

Internationally, activists have taken up a hunger strike in protest of the lack of government involvement in Bhopal. Watch this video about the protest. Some of the images are disturbing.