On the occasion of World Environment Day, residents from the neighbourhood of Union Carbide's abandoned factory demonstrated against the Indian government's failure in removing thousands of tons of poisonous waste in the last 19 years.
Leak of poisonous gas from the Union Carbide factory had killed thousands and maimed lakhs for life in December 1984.
Demonstrators stood in the form of a question mark and held a banner atop the mound at the solar evaporation pond behind the abandoned factory below which the hazardous waste lies buried. The demonstration was led by five survivors' organisations.
The demonstrators said the question mark was meant to signify the many unanswered questions about the ongoing contamination in an area greater than 20 square kilometres.
According to the organisations, hazardous waste from the Union Carbide pesticide factory was buried under the mound in 1996 by the factory management. The waste is known to contain chemicals that cause cancers and birth defects and damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and the brain.
In October 2012, the Lucknow-based Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR) had reported that the groundwater in 22 settlements around the site with 10,000 resident families was contaminated.
According to them, the contamination would continue to spread unless the buried waste is removed from the site.
“It is Union Carbide that buried the waste next to our homes. Why the Indian government is not able to make Union Carbide's current owner Dow Chemical accept legal liability and clean up the toxic waste?” said Rashida Bee, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh.
Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action said a legal petition for removal of the hazardous waste and cleanup by Dow Chemical was pending before the Madhya Pradesh High Court for the last 11 years.
“It is shocking that the judges continue to drag their feet on an issue that concerns the destruction of lives and future of hundreds of unborn children,” Sarangi said.
Balkrishna Namdeo of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogee Sangharsh Morcha condemned the environment minister's recent refusal to seek help from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for a comprehensive scientific assessment of the depth, spread and nature of contamination.
Nawab Khan, president of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, and Safreen Khan of Children Against Dow Carbide also spoke on the issue.