ADIL IS A NORMAL TEENAGER, except that he’ll never walk. His legs are withered, so weak that he has to crawl on hands and knees. He is one of hundreds of children born malformed or brain-damaged in families living near the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal. The factory has been a place of horror ever since that cold night in December 1984 when it poured a huge cloud of poison over the sleeping city, killing thousands in the most hideous and disgusting ways.
On that night, as it is still known in Bhopal, Adil was not yet born, but his family lived 200 yards from Union Carbide. His mother thought it miraculous that she had survived. I am so lucky, she’d say, little knowing that a new terror was already on the way. Unbeknownst to the local people, their drinking wells were being poisoned by chemicals leaking from the factory. First the water began to smell foul. Held up to the light it appeared full of oily globules which, if left to settle, formed a tawny layer at the bottom. It tasted horrible, for the goo was actually a cocktail of lethal poisons, but at the time, no one knew this.
A private Union Carbide memo [right] never meant for your eyes, records that in 1989 Carbide discovered that soil and water in its factory were badly poisoned by naphthol and other chemicals whose effects included skin and eye damage, cataracts, diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, liver & kidney damage, convulsions, brain damage, anaemia, birth defects and cancers.
Despite the clear danger to people living near the factory, Union Carbide issued no warning. Many were already seriously ill from its poison gas leak. Carbide watched in silence as they were poisoned a second time. In 1994, Adil’s mother was twenty. Lucky girl, she was married. Many women exposed to the gases had serious menstrual problems and couldn’t have children. Soon she was pregnant with Adil. By now Carbide’s silence had lasted five years. When environmentalists expressed fear about the soaring rates of cancer, birthdefects and early deaths in communities near the plant, the company denounced them as mischief-makers.
During Carbide’s years of silence, hundreds of children were born with terrible injuries. If you are willing to risk being seriously upset, you can search for some of the pics on internet.
In 1999 Greenpeace tested soil and water in 14 neighborhoods near the factory. In places they found mercury levels 6,000,000 times higher than normal and more than 30 chemicals in the water, many known to cause birth defects and cancers. A 2001 study found lead, mercury and the factory’s poisonous signature in the breast milk of new mothers. Other studies found that 95% of women in some communities were anemic.
For Adil this knowledge came many years too late. Union Carbide’s final gift to the Bhopalis was to leave the city without bothering to clean its factory. Twenty-four years after the gas disaster, chemicals spill from rotting sacks and drums. Each monsoon washes them deeper into the subsoil. People still have to drink poisoned water. Damaged children are still being born. Union Carbide disclaims all responsibility for the state of the factory and its legal owner Dow Chemical says it is not its responsibility.
If this makes you angry, reserve some of your ire for India’s politicians, from whom comes no help. They have done nothing to clean the factory or provide clean water.
The families of Adil and other children have had not a penny in compensation or aid to help them.
Children like Adil have been ignored and betrayed by every authority who had a duty of care. They have no one left but us and we must not let them down. Spread the word, this is the simplest way of letting people know the true story of Bhopal. A story which has not been told for 26 years.
I am not a warrior on a war path but being a human and a citizen of India, it's my duty to let people know the truth around us.
P.S. : The above story of Adil is a true one & I came across it while reading an article on the tragedy.