Twenty-five years ago, this week, thousands died and lakhs fell ill in the gas leak at a Union Carbide chemicals plant in Bhopal. But 25 years later, the area near the site of the plant is still contaminated. A study shows that there are very high levels of pesticides and chemicals.
In its toxicity tests, Delhi's Centre for Science and Environment took samples from sites within the Union Carbide factory and tested ground water three km away from the Carbide factory.
Acutely high amounts of pesticide and heavy metals have been found in the soil and surface water inside the plant. All 11 groundwater samples collected from colonies around the UCL factory are contaminated.
"We find very high levels of chemicals and pesticides in the UCC factory. These are the same chemicals and pesticides that UCC was manufacturing when it was operating its plant. What is even more worrying is that we found presence of the same chemicals and pesticides in the groundwater that we tasted in the city, clearly showing there is contamination of the site and that contamination is leaching into the ground water and is creating slow poisoning for the people who live in those localities," said Sunitha Narain, director, CSE.
Slow poisoning is what independent groups have been saying for decades, but the government dismisses their claims saying its part of an activist agenda.
In fact, Jairam Ramesh recently said, "I have held that waste in my hand and I am still alive. I am not coughing."
The minister may not be coughing at first contact, but will he be able to dismiss the CSE report - a scientific study, not linked to any of the Bhopal NGO's? And who will respond to the anger in the colonies adjacent to the Carbide plant, who have been living with death and disease.