ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bhopal's Toxic Legacy

The laws are ineffectual, the facilities are inadequate and hazardous wastes continue to pile up.

The resignation of Meredith Alexander, a British environmentalist, from the ethics committee for the 2012 London Olympics over accepting Dow Chemicals as a sponsor has brought the focus back on the issue of culpability and liability for the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster. Dow Chemicals, which bought Union Carbide, has stubbornly refused to accept its liability for the disaster. As a result, not only are the thousands of victims of the gas tragedy deprived of just compensation, but also thousands of tonnes of toxic waste left behind in the abandoned Carbide plant in Bhopal continue to remain untreated after 27 years. Following a ruling by the Jabalpur High Court in 2007, ordering the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board (MPPCB) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to deal with the waste, some efforts have been made. But a suitable spot to either bury or burn the waste cannot be located. Indeed, the dilemma posed by the hazardous waste pile in the Bhopal plant illustrates the inefficacy of laws and facilities to deal with toxic wastes in India.

The fight to deal with this particular toxic pile has been a long one by the survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster. First, they had to prove that the soil in the abandoned plant was poisoned, that these poisons had leached into the groundwater and had found their way into the water supply of the dense human settlements around the plant. Then they had to assert that Dow Chemicals should be held liable for cleaning up the plant. After numerous campaigns and court cases, the Jabalpur High Court finally ordered the waste to be removed and destroyed.

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