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Essay on “Bhopal : The Unending Tragedy ” Complete Essay for Class 9, Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

Bhopal : The Unending Tragedy 

What can one do if the food, the soil, the water and one’s own body are contaminated with toxic chemicals? How does one live healthily and support a livelihood? How can one survive the deep violation of human rights, embodied by the seeping poison unleashed by a powerful corporate which was never brought to book for its crimes?

During the night of December 2, 1984, about 40 tones of methyl isocyanate (MIC) from the Union Carbide India Limited’s (UCIL) pesticide factory in Bhopal in central India, leaked into the surrounding environment. On that fateful night in 1984, more than 2,000 died immediately and over 200,000 of the city’s total population of 700,000 were directly affected. What followed was a devastating impact of the chemicals on the eyes, lungs and gastro-intestinal systems. Gynecological and obstetric complications soon became apparent, as did immunological changes, neurological disorders, accelerated rates of cancer and emotional and mental stress. Unfortunately, the devastating impact continues till date. Tardy compensation, inadequate and inappropriate medical treatment and absence of economic rehabilitation to the debilitated survivors characterized the post-gas leak scenario in Bhopal. In 1989, the Indian Government arrogated to itself the sole power to represent all the victims under the Bhopal Gas Leak Act and settled for a sum of US $470 million — nearly one-seventh of the original claim of US $3 billion.

This infamous settlement, the disregard for health and the environment by Union Carbide are lessons in lack of corporate accountability and gross injustice on those affected by the disaster.

The study reveals that the continued contamination of the groundwater soil and breast milk present a serious health threat not Only to those currently exposed but also to future generations.

These chemicals can alter the normal physiological processes in the human body and have a long-term impact on the reproductive, immune and nervous system. Infants and children are most affected to these toxins since infants are most sensitive to these toxic chemicals. Other effects of chemical pollutants include carcinogenicity, mutagen city and chromosomal aberrations. Of significance here is ‘synergism’, whereby even minute quantities of two or more of these toxic chemicals within the human body can cause immense harm.

These toxic chemicals remain intact (which means they are not bio-degradable) and have a disastrous tendency to accumulate in fatty tissue. Environmental estrogens may increase breast cancer risk. They can also cause other reproductive disorders like prolonged menstruation, sterility, low sperm count and repeated miscarriages.

Of serious concern is the fact that they can be passed on to the next generation through breast milk. Human breast milk samples, taken from women in the area and studied by the FFM, showed maximum concentrations of VOCs and a higher concentration of pesticide in breast milk, showing that these carcinogenic toxics are bio-concentrated in breast milk. “This poses a serious concern to infants, as it is the easiest and shortest route of exposure of these potentially-carcinogenic chemicals,” says the report.

According to current toxicological knowledge, there is no acceptable level for these toxic compounds. In children, even low dosage toxicity can lead to endocrine disruption and hormonal malfunctions, effects of which may only emerge at puberty. In addition to the amount of exposure, the timing seems to be crucial. Exposure during fetal development or during early infancy can have serious implications for future development.

One fall-out of this has been that people are reluctant to marry young people who were exposed to the gas; especially since males who were exposed and are married presently do not have offspring or have deformed offspring. Many women fear to marry men who were exposed to the gas disaster because of a fear of sterility, miscarriages or malformed children.

While the tragedy continues, with affected people forced to consume contaminated water and food, it is apparent that the grim lessons of Bhopal are yet to be learnt. “While the post-Bhopal scenario realigned thinking on the impacts of chemicals on human health and environment, this has yet to be translated into practice,” says the report.

The post-Bhopal era also saw worldwide regulation on chemicals and toxicity and a demand by communities to the right to information and to be participants in the process of industry-sitting. Yet, as Tomas Mac Sheoin’s report on the Union Carbide Corporation notes, “It is one of the bitter ironies of Bhopal that its major reformist effects were felt in Union Carbide’s home country.” Inspired by the disaster and the public response to it, the US increased its regulatory activities. One major step forward came through the setting up of the Toxic Releases Inventory and other freedom of information measures that greatly increased public access to information on toxic chemical releases.

In India, however, community struggles have had little success in gaining the ‘right to know’ whereby people can identify any contaminated sites in their areas. But why go so far? Because, as Nair points out, many people even in Bhopal are riot aware of the hazardous impact of contaminated ground water. Others, though aware of the contamination, continue to consume it because the government has not provided any alternative sources of potable water.

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