From: Associated Press
Published November 5, 2004 12:00 AM

Experts Call for Cleaning Up of Bhopal Plant Where Gas Leak Killed Thousands of People in 1984

BHOPAL, India — Experts on Thursday urged the removal of thousands of tons of toxic waste from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in central India, where a devastating gas leak killed 15,000 people 20 years ago.


The gas leak at the Union Carbide plant in Madhya Pradesh state capital, Bhopal, was one of the world's worst industrial accidents.


At a seminar on the disaster, experts said nearly 25,000 tons of toxic waste remain inside the factory since it stopped operations on December 4, 1984 — a day after lethal methyl isocynate gas leaked into the atmosphere killing thousands of people and contaminating local water and soil.


"The remediation of the site must include dismantling of the existing building and plant and the excavation and pretreatment of polluted soils, and it has to be done as a first step in the clean up process," said Harald Burmeier, an expert in hazardous waste management.


Union Carbide, which is now owned by Dow Chemical Co., accepted moral responsibility for the disaster but blamed it on sabotage by a disgruntled employee.


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"The biggest obstacle to clean up the Bhopal factory has been the lack of corporate responsibility and the political will to make it happen. Clearly, the responsibility of bearing the cost of the clean up lies with Dow Chemical Co.," said Vinuta Gopal, a campaigner with Greenpeace India.


The experts said the clean up would take about four years and the treatment of contaminated groundwater would take 10 to 25 years. Both operations would cost a total of around US$30 million (euro 23 million).


Greenpeace and International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal organized the seminar ahead of the 20th anniversary of the industrial disaster.


Source: Associated Press


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