Offer to investigate continuing pollution from the Bhopal disaster 30 years ago awaits Indian government approval

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has offered to investigate the spread of toxic waste in the aftermath of the Bhopal disaster, a methyl isocyanate gas leak from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, that occured in 1984.

Although the disaster took place over 30 years ago, several campaign groups argue that the resulting contamination was never properly measured or dealt with, and that it still represents a health hazard for local people.

Now, UNEP has approached the Indian government offering to fully assess the extent of contamination around the factory site. For this to go ahead, the government must now formally invite UNEP to Bhopal, and the Indian environment and forestry minister is currently considering the offer.

‘There are 22 communities, comprising around 50,000 people, now officially acknowledged as affected by contaminated groundwater; but the unfortunate truth is that nobody knows how far the contamination has spread into the aquifer and, thus, how many communities are actually affected,’ said Colin Toogood, a spokesman for the Bhopal Medical Appeal, a charity set up to support victims of the disaster. ‘The contamination situation in Bhopal is an environmental crisis and a medical emergency. We welcome UNEP’s offer and insist that the Ministry of Environment and Forest issue a formal invitation.’