It was a human rights tragedy on December 2, 1984, and it remains so today. Shortly after midnight on that date, 25 year ago, thousands of tons of lethal chemicals leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. About half a million people were exposed, roughly 10,000 of whom died in the immediate aftermath. Another 15,000 died in the following two decades.
One of my first jobs in the technology industry in the 1990s was doing intranet/extranet dev work for a large law firm that defended the company responsible for this disaster. Knowing how many high-paid corporate attorneys around the world have been paid so much for so long to preserve impunity for Dow, which took over Union Carbide in 2001, the odds of justice for the victims seem long indeed.
WITNESS and Amnesty International collaborated on a video report about the ongoing fight to "make the government do something about the suffering of the victims," as one Bhopal survivor says in this piece.
Despite a quarter of a century having passed the factory site has not been cleaned up. More than 100,000 people continue to suffer from health problems. Efforts to provide rehabilitation – both medical care and measures to address the socio-economic effects of the leak – have fallen far short of what is needed.
Many of those affected are still waiting for adequate compensation and the full facts of the leak and its impact have never been properly investigated. No-one has ever been held to account for what happened at Bhopal and efforts by survivors' organizations to use the Indian and US court systems to see justice done and gain adequate redress have so far been unsuccessful.