A leakage in the tank containing highly toxic methyl isocyanate gas at the Union Carbide Pesticides Plant in Bhopal killed, over the next few days, more than 3000 people. Thousands more were affected and are likely to suffer from various illnesses over the coming decades. Livestock damage has also been extensive. In the absence of precise medical data, the long-term effects of this gas-poisoning remain largely unknown.

Even a cursory analysis of the accident itself and the events that followed point to failures on various levels technical, administrative, and political.

The Bhopal Tragedy also rises in a most poignant manner three basic issues: (i) the wisdom of the employment and spread of technologies producing toxic products for use, as well as the problem of disposal of the toxic wastes. (ii) The need for a more balanced ecological perspective in planning and (iii) the limits of technological intervention leading to disturbances in ecological balance within Nature.

We wish to emphasize that each time such a 'mishap' occurs it is the poor and lowly who fall victims to it. All debate on the reorientation of policies and adoption of preventive measures must face up to this truth.

The tragedy at Bhopal underlines the need for radical policy changes and measures in a number of related spheres. We list below some of the more important of these changes and measures : "Science & Technology" Policy

A re shaping of our science and technology policy is essential if we are to overcome in time the grave environmental crisis facing us. The policy must be directed at:
-Reducing the present levels of pollution
-Conserving Nature and natural resources.

For this,

  1. No new sophisticated high technology should be introduced before sufficiently adequate knowledge of its hazardous effects on natural environment, especially the danger to the health and life of the people, is secured.
  2. Technologies that by their very nature break ecological balances in Nature and/or cause illnesses or slow-poisoning to people should be rejected, or if in current use, be phased out and substituted by technologies that work with nature, and promote health and well-being of the people.
  3. No industrial product; should be freely introduced on commercial basis before it is thoroughly tested for its biodegradability 'and non-toxicity. Products should be allowed to be put on the market only when it is proved in a reasonably satisfactory manner that they "do not pose a threat to the environment and man.
Legal and Administrative Measures

It has long been wrongly and unfairly presumed by industrially advanced and politically dominant nations that human life in the third world is so cheap as not to warrant safety/preventive measures as stringent as those in the countries of the first two worlds.

We condemn the racial, arrogance implied in this position and demand that:
Law should place mandatory responsibility of identifying pollution and / or health hazards of the industrial technology and processes used, products marketed and wastes disposed, on the shoulders of the concerned owners and the management . Whenever and wherever the government permits an industry to be established which produces, uses or leaves as wastes, toxic products, the government as a corporation as well as the concerned persons such as ministers, civil servants and scientists / technical consultants, should be held responsible both for failing to secure full knowledge of environmental hazards.

The Polluter must pay

The industrial system today uses, air, water and land as a cost free dumping ground for its wastes. It extends this treatment to the human population, both to the workers within the industry and also to the people around. This must stop.

Law should rigorously enforce the principle — "The polluter must pay". Workers, employees and citizens should be legally entitled to claim damages for the ill-effects caused by operation of the concerned industrial establishment or the use of its products or by the dumping of its wastes. It should be deemed sufficient evidence in law if a reasonable connection can be established between the pollution hazardous effects suffered by the complainant and the operation/products/wastes of the industrial processes.

We insist that the same principle should hold true vis-a-vis Nature. We need to reject firmly the suggestion put forth that the solution to disasters like Bhopal is to locate such plants in uninhabited stretches of land. Man and Nature form a unity, and survival of man is vitally dependent on the maintenance of the ecological balance in Nature. Nature everywhere is a single, complex, interacting web of nonliving and living systems. Hence, there are no 'uninhabited stretches" of land on earth.

Policy over Multinationals and establishment of industries

Multinational companies dominate the worldwide industrial system today. They pose a serious threat in the third world countries because they act as models and are frequently the collaborators of local industrialists.

Our people and the governments, state and central, must wake up to the grave threat posed by the profit hungry multinationals, who are more than wolfing to treat the people in the third world as dispensable material in their pursuit of growth and profit.
We can begin by banning in our country, forthwith, all such industrial processes and products as are banned in the first two worlds. The life and health of the citizens of India is as sacred and inviolable as that of citizens in the developed world.

Food self-sufficiency and the green revolution

Following the Bhopal tragedy we are being reminded through the Media that the people must put up with such 'accidents' because pesticides, even the most toxic one, are needed if enough food is to be produced in the country. The argument is extended to cover the chemical fertilizers also. The success of the so-called Green Revolution' is cited as a proof in favor of this argument.

We do not challenge the fact that in our efforts to increase food production to meet the needs of an ever-growing population we have today come to rely-almost totally, on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, delicate, disease-prone hybrids, etc. But we do most emphatically reject the stance that this is the only scientific method to grow more food. We furthermore suggest that this almost total dependence on inorganic synthetic chemicals is shortsighted and suicidal. Thereby we not only hang our destiny entirely on resources that are non-renewable and are rapidly running out, but we are also in the process destroying Nature's complex, ever-renewed, most productive bio-technological system.

We must turn our back on this suicidal "course before causing irreparable destruction to the natural ecosystems. Nature itself is an immeasurably productive and ever renewing technology system. Nature's is a 'permanent economy'. The aim should not be, through 'conquest of nature' to replace Nature with man-made, exhaustible resource-based technological wonderland but, through scientific understanding, to work with Nature and enhance its fecundity while maintaining ecological balance. Advances in the field of biological sciences have now put us in a position to create such a 'permanent economy' in cooperation with Nature. Alternative methods of food production have proved equally effective. They are, in fact, more advanced and refined as they are closer to the living secrets of Nature.

We make bold to state that the artificially fabricated technology of the 'Green Revolution' comprising of big dams and canal irrigation systems, chemical fertilizers, hybrid varieties', pesticides, power driven machinery, etc., is only seemingly advanced. It is in fact, polluting, destructive, wasteful and anti-nature. It soon reduces fecund living soil into barren lifeless dust. With each year it becomes more and more prohibitively expensive. All over the world it is proving anti-productive in the long run. | Deliberately set against the ways of Nature, it is most unscientific. Further, it is anti-people because the 'Green Revolution' technological package can never be within the reach of cores of farmers in our country.

It has now been well established all over the world that thoughtless and shortsighted intervention by man through his technologies, artifacts, and wasteful ways of living' have brought about incalculable short-term as well as long-term harmful consequences. Man, for of all his amazing powers, ever remains a part of Nature, and only harms himself whenever, unmindful of this truth, he acts in defiance of Nature's ways. As our understanding of the working of the single, complex and delicate web of life on earth grows, man must eliminate the cruder technologies he devised out of half knowledge and move into the future with really adaptive technologies instead of disruptive-ones. Man's well-being and survival + lies in living in a symbiotic relationship with Nature as one of its constituent elements.

In the end we would draw this moral from the tragic event in Bhopal : all the ecological disasters, those on the massive scale taking place one single day as well as those taking place daily on the minuscule, that are maiming and killing life are the result [of the greed of -a few individuals. It is greed which makes them cruelly indifferent to others. We can do no better than recall Mahatma Gandhi's words - "There is enough for, everybody's needs but not for anybody's greed". The thousands of innocent victims of Bhopal demand this of the government and the people of this country that they turn to satisfying the needs of all rather than catering to the greed of a few.

Author: Parisar

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