Beyond the iron gates of the derelict pesticide plant where one of the world’s worst industrial disasters occurred, administrative buildings lie in ruins, vegetation overgrown and warehouses bolted.
Massive vessels, interconnected by a multitude of corroded pipes that once carried chemical slurries, have rusted beyond repair.
In the dusty control room, a soiled sticker on a wall panel reads ‘Safety is everyone’s business’.
On the night of December 2, 1984, the factory owned by the U.S. multinational Union Carbide Corp accidentally leaked cyanide gas into the air, killing thousands of largely poor Indians in the central city of Bhopal.
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Damaged: Five-year-old Saagar, who suffers from mental and physical disabilities is held by his mother Komal, at their house in a slum in Bhopal Saagar receives treatment at a rehabilitation centre supported by Bhopal Medical Appeal (BMA)
Piecing eyes: A girl who suffers from both hearing and speech disorders plays up to the camera at a BMA rehabilitation centre
Ghost town: The neighbourhood surrounding the abandoned former Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal looks like a ghost town
Thirty years later, the toxic legacy of this factory lives on, say human rights groups, as thousands of tonnes of hazardous waste remains buried underground, slowly poisoning the drinking water of more than 50,000 people and affecting their health.
Activists want this waste removed and disposed of away from the area, and feel Indian authorities, who now own the site, have fumbled on taking action – either by clearing up the waste itself or in pursuing Union Carbide to take responsibility.
‘There is a very high prevalence of anemia, delayed menarches in girls and painful skin conditions. But what is most pronounced is the number of children with birth defects,’ said activist Satinath Sarangi from the Bhopal Medical Appeal which runs a clinic for gas victims.
‘Children are born with conditions such as twisted limbs, brain damage, musculoskeletal disorders …
this is what we see in every fourth or fifth household in these communities.’