By Chirag Patel
Current Affairs Officer
On the night of December 2nd and the Morning of December 3rd 1984 was when the world’s worse chemical disaster struck Bharat (India).
An attempt for Union Carbide, who owned the plant, to cut costs meant a compromise in health and safety. By November 1984, most of the health and safety systems were not functioning. The direct reason that the chemical leak took place is because of cut backs in health and safety. The leak was caused when a large amount of water entered one of the tanks and caused a chemical reaction which generated a major hike in temperature. Due to cutbacks, the temperature gauge did not warn of the high temperature and the emergency release was activated automatically to reduce the pressure within the tank. However, when this release was opened the reaction sped up quicker due to poor maintenance of the metal work around the plant which was rusting.
Estimates suggest that 8,000 – 10,000 died almost instantly within 72 hours due to exposure to the chemical leak and some estimate 500,000 people were directly affected at the time. The figure of 500,000 victims could be a gross misrepresentation.
New research conducted by the Centre for Science and the Environment (CSE) shows that within two miles from the site, the groundwater contains 40 times more pesticides than the level considered safe and around the factory itself the pesticide levels are 560 times higher.
Since the disaster the plant has still not been cleaned up and is a disaster wreck and is today a play ground for children from the surrounding area who are unaware of the effect the pollution has on their health.
The CEO at the time, Warren Anderson, went to India on the basis that he would not be arrested for what had happened. However, on December 7th 1984 he was placed under arrest. In response to this the US Government put pressure on India to release Anderson, and he was soon released on bail. He soon fled the country back to the USA and is refusing to ever return to India. As of February 1st 1992, the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal declared Anderson a fugitive.
Union Carbide, now owned by Dow Chemical Company, are still refusing to accept responsibility and are claiming that a worker sabotaged the tank by fitting a water pipe to the tank. These claims have since been found to be false through further investigations.
We find it extremely frustrating that the US Government will not extradite Warren Anderson to India for justice, even 25 years on. We also feel that the extradition will send a big message out to the world that injustices will no longer be tolerated from large corporations. Extradition will also be a big step in the right direction for companies realising their Corporate Social Responsibility and ethical thinking.