12/03/2009, 00.00
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The scourge of Bhopal is still alive after 25 years

by Nirmala Carvalho
On the night between 2 and 3 December 1984 a gas leak from the Union Carbide plant killed 20 thousand people. The population of the city of Madhya Pradesh awaits justice. Even today, every day, 6 thousand people with respiratory, motor and brain problems related to the tragedy arrive at hospitals in Bhopal.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Hundreds of people attended the protest march today to commemorate the victims of the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh State.

On the night between 2 and December 3, 25 years ago a leak of 40 tons of methyl isocyanate from the pesticide factory of U.S. multinational Union Carbide invaded the Indian city. Within hours, about 3 thousand people who had inhaled the gas died and in the days after the death toll climbed to reach 20 thousand.  

Still today the data on the worst industrial disaster in history is unclear: estimates for the number of poisonings caused by toxic gas speak of at least 150 thousand people, the permanently disabled at least 150 thousand. What is certain is that in 2006 the contamination was still active and still today, every day, 6 thousand people with respiratory problems, motor and brain illnesses related to the tragedy of December 3, 1984 arrive in the hospitals of Bhopal.

25 years later, survivors are still awaiting justice. In 1989, Union Carbide paid a fine of 470 million dollars to the Indian government, leaving the government of Madhya Pradesh to reclaim the area. Babulal Gaur, Minister of State said that the area is not contaminated, but cancers, skin diseases, respiratory deficiency, malformations of babies are still prevalent among the people of Bhopal.  

Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of the Peoples' Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (Pvchr) tells AsiaNews that "today is the anniversary of 25 years of justice denied in Bhopal." He remembers that the population still bears the marks of the "night of terror" in 1984 and that the consequences of the tragedy continue to emerge.  

 25 years later, women, often the silent victims of the contamination, are beginning to tell their stories. "Many of them have never left the walls of the house until now," said Lenin, "and only now are they telling their problems to the press and presenting themselves to the authorities."  

The Director of Pvchr laments the partisanship of the investigations conducted, and says that despite the tragic example of Bhopal “reports on areas at risk of contamination submitted to inspections and safety standards are rare”.  According Raghuvanshi India is a country where "the violation of the law has become an artform".

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