Bhopal, a city victimized by greed

Bhopal, a city victimized by greed

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By Pedro Rivera Ramos

In the first hours of exposure alone, 6,000 Bhopalese died. In early June 2010, a court in India, after a long and complicated trial, handed down a sentence against eight people responsible for the tragedy. The penalties, to put it properly: insignificant and ridiculous. Still, after a little more than three decades of this unfortunate event, people continue to die from the effects of the toxic gases to which they were criminally exposed.

This tragedy, which today is part of the legacy left us by an increasingly questioned industrial revolution, led to the adoption of the 3 March in memory of the thousands of victims by the Pesticide Action Network, PAN International (Pesticide Action Network). December as the World Day of the Non-Use of Pesticides, as a way to warn of the dangers and consequences of the intensive and indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides and mainly, its inevitable social costs, which every year translate into thousands of deaths, poisonings and disabilities around the world. Yet - it is hard to admit - humanity has learned very little from industrial and environmental disasters like this one. Three decades after Bhopal and according to WHO estimates, around 200,000 people die from acute pesticide poisoning each year, while 33% of all suicides that occur globally are caused by chemical pesticides.

Undoubtedly, after this foreseeable and preventable disaster, many nations revised and tightened their industrial and chemical prevention and safety regulations, while others prohibited or restricted the use of some dangerous pesticides. Still, many other serious "accidents" have taken place with unfortunate consequences, including Chernobyl, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Many others will take place in the future, if a development model with highly polluting, risky and toxic industries continues to be managed on our planet; and if the interests of corporate ambition and greed continue to prevail, to the detriment of life and the protection of the environment.

What happened in the "city of the seven lakes" or the "Badgad of India", names as Bhopal has also been known in the past, is a clear example of the contempt that transnational companies have, over those who have the unhappiness of living in the territories where they are installed. It also demonstrates the staggering impunity they enjoy in dealing with claims for damages and repairs that their toxic industrial operations often cause.

More than thirty years after this unfortunate event, life in Bhopal could never be the same again. There they survive with extraordinary difficulty, more than 200,000 direct chronic patients from this tragedy; several whole generations of Bhopalese scarred for life by the aftermath of their parents' chemical poisoning; high contamination of drinking water, soils, air and the entire environment are also part of this painful human drama, the compensation for which would never have been sufficient or fair if the criminal Union Carbide Corporation or its current successor, they would have tried.

Tragedies such as that of Bhopal and others, as well as the obvious damage that chemical pesticides cause to humans and ecosystems, do not seem to be enough to discourage apologists for pesticides, who continue to see in them the main, and sometimes only solution, against pests and plant diseases. They are the same ones that usually minimize the devastating effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on bees and the significant reduction on their colonies or that claim that it is an exaggeration of the WHO, to consider the pesticides diazinon, malathion, tetrachlorvinphos as “probably carcinogenic to humans” , parathion and now since March 2015, glyphosate, the herbicide most used by agriculture worldwide.

That is why it is high time that we all join the fight to replace the most dangerous chemical pesticides, for their pernicious effects and impacts on our entire environment and mainly for their damage to human health. It is finally time for agroecological alternatives and methods and means of fighting pests to prevail in the production of our food, which, in addition to being effective, are less polluting and harmful.

Video: Bhopal. The City of Lakes. Upper Lake. Balda Talab. Bhojpal story (May 2022).