Come clean

A shoddy cleanup exercise in Bhopal has left residents only angrier

 
Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015

-- the Madhya Pradesh government set a very bad precedent for the cleaning up of contaminated environments. While starting the cleanup at the Union Carbide factory site in Bhopal, the state authorities failed to observe the basic criterion for safety: protecting the community living around the factory. Worse, they did not share the protocol with the community and social groups.

They assumed they knew everything. They took decisions without any scientific evidence of the cleanup's safety. The authorities reasoning: workers had carried these chemicals for three decades without any adverse effects. One might think that the site being discussed is just another factory, not the place that recorded the worst industrial and environmental accident of human history. It didn't require great scientific acumen to alert the residents of the area and even evacuate it. That would have required common sense. Officials have dismissed claims of residents of neighbouring that they were affected by dust and fumes emanating from the cleanup. They might be right. But that only reinforces the need to take people into confidence.

It seems the authorities are afraid of transparency, as if the cleanup were a covert operation that nobody was to know of. The people would have most likely welcomed the initiative, as they had been demanding the same for some time now. Also, it is difficult to believe that the state authorities could be unaware of the case pending in the us or that there could be repercussions of their hurried cleanup on the already dicey situation there. The situation demands meetings with the community and social groups to chalk out the future plan. But government agencies have been underhanded right since the Bhopal gas disaster, be it the issue of compensation or pursuing the guilty. Now the cleanup. The hurried effort of the government to clean up has disregarded its effect on the court case going on in the us. While the cleanup was vital, was this the way to do it? Had the residents been brought on board, it might have helped the government improve its beleaguered relations with the victims.

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