June 7, 2010
More than 25 years after the world’s worst industrial chemical leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, eight people have been convicted on criminal charges and now face 2-year prison terms and fines. This verdict is the first related to the disaster to come from the notoriously slow Indian justice system.
Since the night of December 3, 1984, upwards of 15,000 – 20,000 people have died following the leak of 27 tons of methyl isocyanate gas that left toxic residue across the vast slums surrounding the plant. Many news outlets are reporting that many individuals advocacy groups are outraged by the light punishments doled out to the former Union Carbide plant workers after so many years. The news was met with outrage on the streets near the courthouse.
Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla (2004) won the Goldman Prize for their advocacy on behalf of the survivors of the tragedy and the generation of children born with severe birth defects as a result of environmental toxins left over from the gas leak. Bee was quoted by the BBC about the verdict, saying, “…justice will be done in Bhopal only if individuals and corporations responsible are punished in an exemplary manner.”
Indian Court Convicts Eight in Bhopal Disaster [New York Times]