Some extracts from a piece in the Washington Post:
Twenty-five years after poisonous plumes of chemicals leaked from the Union Carbide factory here, survivors are protesting a government plan to open the site to the public.
Officials said this week that visitors would be allowed to tour the plant to commemorate the disaster and help people come to terms with it.
“Just like we go to Hiroshima, Chernobyl and Ground Zero in New York to remember and pray for victims, so many people from around the world want to visit the Bhopal Union Carbide factory to learn about the disaster,” said Babulal Gaur, minister of relief and rehabilitation for the Bhopal victims.
After visiting the site in September, India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, told reporters: “I went inside, touched toxic material and I am still alive. I am not coughing.”
His remarks offended many survivor groups. “It is like saying, ‘I held a cigarette and did not get cancer.’ Many of the chemicals at the site are persistent organic pollutants that remain in the soil for hundreds of years,” said Satinath Sarangi, an activist.
Gaur said $25 million has been set aside for a museum inside the plant
Update (Via Students for Bhopal
“Everyone wants to see the world’s worst industrial disaster,” said S.R. Mohanty, the secretary for the Relief and Rehabilitation Department for the Bhopal gas tragedy.
It was going to be the government’s way of reassuring its people that the plant no longer posed a threat to society.
But the move sparked protests from victim rights groups and environmental activists. Just days before the anniversary, government officials backed away from the plan they had recently announced.
The official reason, however, had little to do with the gas leak.
Mohanty cited an election rule currently in force that prohibits acts that could be construed as attempting to influence voters ahead of the polls. Bhopal’s municipal elections are scheduled for December.
The plant could still be opened at a later date.
Update (Via @BhopalMedAppealStudents for Bhopal
“We will not allow Dow to even enter the factory premises. Ours is an elected government of 6.5 million people,” Babulal Gaur, Bhopal gas relief and rehabilitation minister told BS
“Had he summoned up his courage against the company, the toxic waste would not have been lying there for years. He was an advocate of Union Carbide in 1982, he cannot speak against them and makes this kind of statement to appease the successor (Dow) now ,” Rasheeda Bi, managing trustee of Chingari Trust (an NGO fighting for survivors’ right) expressed his anger. Rasheeda Bi is a Goldman Environmental prize winner who has ignited the international campaign to seek justice for the disaster survivors.
Satinath Sarangi, who is also actively working for survivors for the last 25 years reacted, “Dow is responsible and the minister is also responsible to making Dow pay for clean up. It is his 180-degree turn from his earlier statement to make Dow pay for clean up.”
Recently the NGOs and survivors have expressed their anger over government’s announcement to open the premises for the public. Later, the government took a U-turn in view of the elections and said, “We will open the premises in January forever. We will open it for public from January as civic body elections are nearing. We will open it forever as we have High Court permission in this regard.”