Bhopal Benefit Concert: Friday 5 March in Edinburgh See more details
The Bhopal Gas Disaster
It is 25 years since the world’s worst industrial-environmental disaster took place in Bhopal, India. On 3rd December 1984 a plume of toxic gas leaked from a pesticide factory owned by US multinational Union Carbide. An estimated 8,000 people were killed within days and a further 15,000 have since died from their injuries. Many gas survivors continue to suffer ill health, and children are born with congenital abnormalities. The company has always refused to provide toxicological information on the gases which leaked. Union Carbide negotiated an ‘out of court’ settlement with the Government of India in1989 which has been rejected as inadequate by the survivors. The company, which was acquired by Dow Chemical Company in 2001, is still facing charges in India.
The factory site remains as it was left in 1984, leaching toxins into the surrounding water courses. High levels of pesticides, heavy metals and organochlorine products have been identified in water from hand-pumps used by local residents.
Medical facilities for the survivors are inadequate. State and private hospitals treat people’s symptoms with drugs which are expensive to buy, largely ineffective and serve the interests of the pharmaceutical companies. Many survivors have spent more on drugs and medical treatment than they have received from the settlement.
In response to this inadequacy, a group of survivors, campaigners and doctors established the Sambhavna Trust to seek to provide effective care for survivors in the communities closest to the factory. The Trust runs a clinic which combines western and ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medicine, including yoga and panchkarma massage, which has enabled the systemic chemical poisoning to be treated with minimal use of chemical drugs. The clinic has an organic garden for the plants used in herbal medicines and employs a team of community health workers for health promotion in the neighbourhoods. Sambhavna also conducts research into the long term social, epidemiological and medical aspects of the gas leak and subsequent pollution.
The ongoing costs of Sambhavna Trust are met by thousands of donations from individuals, organisations and trades unions, mostly in Britain. The Bhopal Medical Appeal is a UK charity (number 1117526: www.bhopal.org) which was set up to support the Sambhavna Trust and to raise awareness of the Bhopal disaster and its ongoing impact on the people of Bhopal. It is a member of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, which has supporters throughout the world and is accountable to survivors groups in Bhopal.