From: Nita Bhalla, Reuters
Published December 3, 2009 06:43 AM

Union Carbide plant in Bhopal 25 Years after the Disaster

It was seen as a symbol of the new emerging India -- a factory that would not only generate thousands of jobs, but manufacture cheap pesticides for millions of farmers.

But the Union Carbide plant in the central city of Bhopal left a more potent legacy when it accidentally released toxic gases into the air, killing thousands of people and causing many more to suffer in the world's most deadly industrial disaster.


A quarter of a century on, the derelict factory stands abandoned, but behind its locked iron gates lies what environmentalists say is "a disaster within a disaster" -- a highly polluted site which, according to a new study, is slowly poisoning the drinking water for thousands of Indians.

Bhopal has long cast a shadow over India and how it handles the challenges of a 1.1 billion, largely poor population, improve health and safety regulations, and a fast-growing economy.

"Our findings suggest that the entire site is highly contaminated," said Sunita Narain, director of the Delhi-based think-tank, the Center for Science and Environment (CSE), which in October tested the toxicity levels of ground water and soil samples in and outside the plant.

"The factory site in Bhopal is leading to chronic toxicity, which is a continuous tiny exposure leading to poisoning of our bodies."

In the early hours of December 3, 1984, around 40 metric tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked into the atmosphere and was carried by the wind to the surrounding slums.

The government says around 3,500 died as a result of the disaster. Activists however calculate that 25,000 people died in the immediate aftermath and the years that followed.

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