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No accurate data on deaths 30 years on, alleges NGO in Bhopal gas tragedy

An NGO working for the Bhopal gas tragedy victims has alleged that there are no accurate figures available on the death toll of the world’s worst industrial disaster even after 30 years and has also raised concern over the toxic waste lying in defunct Union Carbide plant situated near the densely populated old Bhopal area.

Though unofficial estimates claimed that the death toll due to the Bhopal gas tragedy had exceeded the 25,000 mark, official figure stands at 5,295 for whom the government had compensated.

“So far we have compensated for 5,295 deaths due to Bhopal Gas Tragedy,” Madhya Pradesh Department of Gas Relief and Rehabilitation deputy secretary KK Dubey told a news agency.

However, NGO Bhopal Group for Information Action’s (BGIA) activist Rachna Dhingra claimed that as per their information, the death toll had crossed 25,000 since the disaster took place.

“We are demanding compensation for the same, but the state government has so far compensated only for 5,295 deaths,” she said.

Notably, the Madhya Pradesh government had in 2012 demanded from the Centre’s Group of Ministers a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each to the kin of 15,342 deceased in the tragedy, as per revised figures in Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) report, a government release had then said.

Besides, concern has been raised over non-disposal of 350 MT of toxic waste lying in the defunct chemical plant which is a major cause for pollution, especially water contamination in and around the factory.

Hearings have been going since 1999 in Southern District Court of New York against the Union Carbide Corporation, seeking that the poisonous waste should be removed from its factory in Bhopal, Dhingra said. Around 17 people, living close to the plant, supported by some NGOs, had moved the US court in 1999, but the timid response to the case by successive Madhya Pradesh governments has not yielded any result, she alleged.

“It is high time that MP government should intervene in the US court and get the waste cleared,” she demanded.

In India too, an NGO moved a PIL in Madhya Pradesh High Court in 2004, after a soil sample test carried out in and around the closed factory revealed that the waste was causing air and water pollution in the surroundings having a huge human settlement. But the toxic dump couldn’t be cleared following resistance from different environment groups.

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