So less, so late

Published: Monday 15 July 1996

FORTY years of suffering and deprivation later, victims of one of the world's worst pollution disasters were finally promised compensation in a recent settlement. An agreement was reached between 1,500 Japanese victims of Minamata disease - caused by mercury pollution in Minamata Bay - and the Chisso chemicals company, which has promised around us $24,000 each.

The company had dumped mercury compounds into Minamata Bay between 1953 and 1960. The mercury got accumulated in shellfish and other fish consumed by the local people. It damaged nerves causing uncontrollable shaking and many women gave birth to severely deformed babies. There was a public outcry when the symptoms were traced back to dumped mercury. The government had to enforce pollution control measures to clean up the country)s water and air. Originally, 13,000 people had applied for the compensation, of which 3,000 were officially listed as suffering from diseases related to mercury pollution. The other victims had to turn to courts to seek compensation.

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