Today marks the 20th anniversary of the catastrophic incident that killed 3,800 residents of Bhopal, India, by a noxious gas leak whose repercussions are responsible for the loss of 20,000 lives to date.
On Dec. 3, 1984, at 12:05 a.m., thousands of Bhopal residents were awakened by deadly methyl isocyanate gas beclouding their town. The disaster exposed an estimated half a million people to the gas and has left survivors suffering from exposure-related illnesses such as cancer, severe birth defects, menstrual abnormalities and tuberculosis among other illnesses.
Yesterday, student members of the University groups Students for Bhopal and Environmental Action at the University of Michigan members stood outside of the Chemistry Building reading testimonials of Bhopal victims as students entered and exited the building.
Students also plastered 20 vivid posters on the walls of the building that provided information on the disaster.
“Each poster is a fact. Our main goal is to have Dow (Chemical) give money to Bhopal. Under the court of law Dow is responsible,” said Deepti Reddy, an LSA sophomore and Students for Bhopal member.
The lethal gas seeped from the Union Carbide pesticide plant. Union Carbide was bought by Dow — the largest chemical organization in the world — in 2001.
The site is still considered highly toxic and has contaminated the water supply residents drink from everyday with importunate organic pollutants, hazardous levels of mercury and other lethal chemicals, students said.
Dow Chemical refuses to take liability for the incident, placing liability on the pesticide plant. The plant has paid the full settlement of $470 million to the Government of India in 1989 and has provided monetary and medical aid to victims.
However, the Indian government agreed to this financial settlement without consulting the victims and cleared Union Carbide from legal liability, said Ryan Bodanyl, coordinator of the International Campaign for Justice In Bhopal and a University alum.
The campaign coordinates student activism across the world in effort to find justice for Bhopal.
“More than anyone I would blame the Indian government for being corrupt and bureaucratic as usual and not looking out for the welfare of its people,” said Engineering senior Shravanthi Gummadi, a member of the Indian Students Association.
“People of Bhopal have been let down by their government and the legal systems both in India and in the U.S.,” said Bodanyl. “For Dow to say that they are not responsible for the liabilities in India is contradicted in their actions,” he said.
Dow has inherited and paid out on Union Carbide’s asbestos liabilities in the United States.
The International Campaign for Justice In Bhopal has spent several campaigning for justice, Bodanyl said.
The campaign continues to pressure Dow and the US Indian governments to ensure adequate health care, proper rehabilitation for survivors and their children and a safer environment.
“Dow has been lying about their liability. We’re not waiting for them to tell the truth, we’re telling the truth for them,” Bodanyl said.