Shortly before midnight on 2 December 1984 thousands of tonnes of deadly chemicals leaked from Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, central India. Around half a million people were exposed. Between 7,000 and 10,000 people died in the immediate aftermath and a further 15,000 over the next 20 years.
On 2 December 2009 the people of Bhopal will mark the 25th anniversary of the devastating leak. Amnesty International will join them to highlight the ongoing human rights impacts of the 1984 leak.
Despite a quarter of a century having passed the factory site has not been cleaned up. More than 100,000 people continue to suffer from health problems. Efforts to provide rehabilitation – both medical care and measures to address the socio-economic effects of the leak – have fallen far short of what is needed.
Many of those affected are still waiting for adequate compensation and the full facts of the leak and its impact have never been properly investigated. No-one has ever been held to account for what happened at Bhopal and efforts by survivors’ organizations to use the Indian and US court systems to see justice done and gain adequate redress have so far been unsuccessful.
Bhopal is not just a human rights tragedy from the last century – it is a human rights travesty today. The legacy of Bhopal persists because the people of Bhopal have never been able to claim their rights. Moreover, the negative impacts of the leak are affecting new generations.
For 25 years the Indian government has failed the people of Bhopal. Promises have been repeatedly broken and no adequate action has ever been taken to address the impacts of the gas leak. And, while the people of Bhopal have struggled to obtain even basic relief such as clean water, the companies involved have evaded accountability and obstructed the efforts of victims to secure reparation.
This work is part of Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity campaign which aims to end the human rights violations that drive and deepen global poverty. The campaign will mobilise people all over the world to demand that governments, corporations and others who have power listen to the voices of those living in poverty and recognise and protect their rights. For more information visit the Demand Dignity section.
The Bhopal European Bus Tour (Livewire Blog)
Image copyright: © Andy Spyra