This morning’s Bhopal: The Search for Justice screening at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival brought back memories of watching Inspector Gadget and thinking about toxic clouds. Ah, sweet remmebrance of an 80’s childhood of generalized fear and longing: rubber bracelets, Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez, Duran Duran, the threat of nuclear annihilation and the Bhopal disaster. For this generation, the more than 15,000 individuals who died when the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India leaked poisonous methyl isocyanate gas in December 1984 might remain a faint generality if not for 9/11.
In addition to the dead, hundreds of thousands were injured, and thousands more deal with lingering maladies. Children born years later face reproductive problems and physical malformations. The original settlement between Union Carbide and India did not quantify these effects, and current definitions of corporate liability do not include them. Victims continue to struggle for redress from the Indian government and Dow Chemical (who bought Union Carbide). Until recently, it has been difficult to fund longitudinal health effects research, but, among other renewed interest, the Dept. of Homeland Security is now directing funding towards the effects of industrial contastrophy due to the threat of a terrorist attack. What an ironic source of optimism for those in Bhopal.
You can find out more about the work of inspiring Bhopal activists, or get involved yourself, at the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. :: Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Bhopal: The Search for Justice