Bhopal gas tragedy survivors ask Unesco to preserve ‘killer’ factory

March 4th, 2009 - 5:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhopal, March 4 (IANS) Survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy Wednesday said they have appealed to Unesco to preserve the Union Carbide factory, which was the site of the infamous industrial disaster, as part of a memorial.
Leaders of various NGOs working for the cause of the gas tragedy victims - including the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh (BGPMSKS), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha (BGPMPSM) and Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) - said at a joint press conference here that they have sent a letter to UNESCO, seeking help for decontamination, repair, restoration and preservation of the factory site.

“The remains of the Union Carbide factory that has killed over 25,000 people so far are as valuable a heritage as the remains of the concentration camps in Auschwitz, Buchenwald and other places. Thus, it must be preserved in its original form at all cost,” says the letter sent to Unesco.

“While there was so much clamour in government departments for getting different sites recognised as a UNESCO heritage site, here was a site that could well qualify as a modern industrial heritage but the government was intent on destroying the memory of the corporate crime against humanity,” it added.

The tragedy, known as one of the world’s worst man-made catastrophes, occurred when tonnes of methyl-iso-cyanate and other lethal gases spewed out of the Union Carbide’s pesticide plant on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, killing thousands of people instantly and maiming several thousand others for life.

Condemning the government’s plans for pulling down the factory, Satinath Shadangi of BGIA said that any attempt to dismantle it will be physically resisted by the survivors.

The activists also presented a recommendation from Swedish industrial heritage expert Jan af Geijerstam at the press conference.

In his letter, Geijerstam has forcefully endorsed that the structures at the Union Carbide factory site must be preserved and opined that the repair and reinforcement of the structures is quite possible.

The government had earlier proposed to set up a memorial at the defunct Union Carbide chemical plant at a cost of Rs.700 million on an area of 67 acres.

Urban Administration Minister Babulal Gaur told IANS that the factory premises would be handed over to the housing and environment department for the construction of the monument after the area is cleaned up of its toxic waste.

Gaur said the layout for the monument, which provides for construction of a museum, photo gallery, auditorium, monument structure and garden, was ready.

“It is unfortunate that the state has not been able to construct a memorial even 24 years after the tragedy. It has not even talked to the survivors or their organisations in this regard,” said Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan convener Abdul Jabbar.

The survivors’ leaders also claimed that the government’s negligence towards securing the thousands of tonnes of buried waste was leading to further spread of extremely poisonous chemicals.

They alleged that the Hyderabad-based company Ramky, which nearly caused a disaster at the factory site while containing waste in June 2005, is now constructing a very unsafe disposal site at Pithampur.

They also accused the state government of secretly removing 40 tonnes of hazardous waste to Pithampur in blatant violation of the Hazardous Waste Management Rules, 1989.

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