Recently I watched BBC cover a report on water pollution in China. “Pollution from a broken oil pipeline in northern China reached one of the country’s major water sources – the Yellow River”, state media say.
Contrast this to what happened in Bhopal, India 25 years ago: Since 1984, 20,000 people lost their lives in Bhopal, India after a chemical gas spill from a pesticide factory. More than 40 tons of methyl isocyante (MIC) gas created a dense cloud over a resident population of more than half a million people.
Though not very similar in gravity and extent, both situations above arise from one common reason. Lax in government and industrial regulation of discharge of toxic by products and ingredients into their surroundings.
Even though the Bhopal incident happened more than two decades ago, residents both existing and new feel the effects till today. According to a greenpeace article: “Justice has eluded the people of Bhopal for more than 20 years. Dow, since its merger with Union Carbide, refuses to assume these liabilities in India – or clean up the toxic poisons left behind. More than 20,000 people still live in the vicinity of the factory and are exposed to toxic chemicals through groundwater and soil contamination. A whole new generation continues to get sick, from cancer and birth defects to everyday impacts of aches and pains, rashes, fevers, eruptions of boils, headaches, nausea, lack of appetite, dizziness, and constant exhaustion.”
What can we do to make sure there is no repeat:We need to constantly monitor, educate and take action. For example, the same Greenpeace article mentions:
1. There are 6,000+ high-risk chemical sites across the U.S.
2. 300 of them affect risk the health of upto 100 million Americans if attacked.
3. Recently, the House of Representatives approved a compromise chemical security bill (H.R. 2868) that could help prevent Bhopal-like catastrophes at some the highest risk U.S. chemical plants.
4. More than 280 plants have converted to safer chemical processes since 1999 and have eliminated these risks to over 38 million Americans.
None of this would have been possible without active citizenship! Hooray for them