25 years ago, chemical gases from a factory owned by Union Carbide (now owned by Dow Chemical) leaked into the atmosphere resulting in the deaths of 8,000 to 10,000 people and adversely affecting the lives of over 150,000 people. Satinath Sarangi, a chemical disaster activist, recounted what the people of that disaster experienced that day,
And there was no warning system in the factory. There was no one—no one from the factory was telling people to run in the opposite direction of the wind and not in the direction of the wind, as they did, and no one to tell them that they could actually protect themselves from the deadly impact of the gas by just holding a wet cloth over their nose and mouth. So the people got to know, only after they were surrounded by this cloud from all around, and they started running. And when they ran, as they ran, they inhaled more and more of this poisonous gas that sheared their lungs. And there was so much secretion of body fluids in their lungs that actually many people died, because they drowned in their own body fluids. And then there were lots and lots of people who died because of the effect on the brain. Women were aborting as they ran.
Mr. Sarangi also spoke of the long-term effects, “And then in the subsequent years, more people died because of the damage that was caused to almost every organ in the body, because the poisons that people inhaled, they went into the bloodstream through their lungs and stayed there and damaged their lungs, their brain, liver, kidneys.”
The groundwater and soil remain contaminated to this day since Union Carbide has not initiated any clean up efforts. Today, thousands marched in Bhopal on the 25th anniversary demanding that Union Carbide take responsibility and clean up the mess it caused, so the citizens there can finally drink clean water once again because you know, water is important to your survival. Union Carbide did pay $470 million to victims, but if you work out the math, that works out to roughly “$500 per person for lifelong injuries and $2,000 for deaths that occurred in the families.” Somehow, that seems like Union Carbide got off with a slap on the wrist.