Bhopal Gas tragedy victims stage rally outside Union Carbide factory

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Bhopal, Dec.3 (ANI): Victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy and their families held a rally outside Union Carbide Factory to mark 25th anniversary of world's most deadly industrial disaster.

The factory 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 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.

Suffering survivors were holding placards, banners and installations showing guilty political leaders and officials of Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals.

"Organisations will keep on protesting till the time Bhopal gas victims doesn't get justice and life of dignity. Recently, prime minister has given a statement that they will take possible measures to help the victims are rehabilitate and to provide them relief. We also want to say that the promise which PM made 18 months back about formulating authorised commission for Bhopal, should fulfil his promise and constitute it be immediately," said Rachna Sarangi, a woman protestor.

A tableaux and other installations depicting guilty behind the bars and faces of Indian prime minister and Congress party president on effigy of donkey and dog respectively were part of the rally.

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.

A report by 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, now suggested that the entire site is highly contaminated.

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.

Activists and health workers say a further 100,000 people who were exposed to the gas continue to suffer today.

Sicknesses range from cancer, blindness, respiratory difficulties immune and neurological disorders, female reproductive disorders as well as birth defects among children born to affected women. But activists and lawyers representing the affected populations from the nearby slums say the tragedy of this disaster is that it continues unabated.

Around 340 metric tonnes of chemical waste are stored in a warehouse inside the plant and needs to be disposed of. Dow Chemical, which now owns Union Carbide, denies any responsibility saying it bought the company a decade after Union Carbide had settled its liabilities to the Indian government in 1989 by paying 470 million dollars for the victims.

Authorities also have for years refuted claims that the water is contaminated, saying that various studies commissioned by the government have found no evidence of pollution.

However, the CSE report contradicts the government's findings, saying samples taken from around the factory site were found to contain chlorinated benzene compounds and organochlorine pesticides 561 times the national standard.

Samples taken as far as 3 km (1.9 miles) away from the plant were found to have toxic chemicals 38.6 times more than the standard. The report said there could be no other source of these toxins than Union Carbide. (ANI)

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