A forty-foot multimedia installation by Indian artist Singh Jodha is coming to London on 18th July in time for the Olympics. Most of the work has been shot at the now sealed Union Carbide Plant in Bhopal (India) a location that continues to poison the soil, air and water of its surrounding areas. The images portray an eerie emptiness comparable to the Nazi gas chambers of Auschwitz. However, unlike Auschwitz, the perpetrators of this crime continue to walk free. The victims largely poor people, continue to be denied fair compensation, adequate health care or legal redressal. Worse, they are forced behind a veil of indifference and enforced silence. This installation also hints at this state of affairs with a shroud bearing names and file numbers of some of the victims’ that envelops them in anonymity.
The Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 remains the world’s biggest industrial disaster. The leakage of 42 tons of lethal methyl isocyanate by the Union Carbide plant on the night of 2nd December and early morning of 3rd, exposed 528,125 people, immediately killing 2,259. More than 25,000 have since died from the after-effects of that exposure. In 2011 this art installation has traveled to Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai. Over 85,000 people visited this project in Mumbai in a week alone, making it the largest ever-viewed public art project in India. 7,000 to 10,000 people were killed immediately in 1984 by a toxic gas leak from a pesticide factory in Bhopal, India. Over the next 20 years a further 15,000 people have died; today, the contaminated site still infringes the human rights of over 100,000 people. The Bhopal gas leak is one of the worst cases of corporate negligence in living memory and demonstrates why it is important to hold international companies to account.
A quarter of a century after the explosion of the tanks containing the most lethal gas ever invented by man’s diabolical imagination, Bhopal continues to kill. Women are afflicted with cancers of the cervix, children are born malformed, men and women grow breathless and blind. The killing gas has infiltrated itself into the genes of a whole new generation of victims. A curse that might perpetuate for generations to come. The explosion of the Union Carbide plant having mostly hit poor working families living in slums around the factory, those who survived have been mostly incapable to obtain the medical treatments they were entitled to, and to receive the financial compensations they were owed for the lost of their kin and the destruction of their health.
The toxic effluents left on the site of the factory after the explosion have relentlessly poisoned over the years the underground waters feeding the wells used by the survivors. On a recent trip to Bhopal Jodha drank one glass of that water, an experience which set aflame his mouth, throat, oesophagus, before covering his body with a skin rash. This is the water that goes into the milk bottles of many of today’s Bhopal newborn. As of today, nobody has accepted the responsibility to dispose of these toxic effluents. Neither Dow Chemicals which now owns the former Union Carbide factory, nor the US and Indian governments, nor the government of Madhya Pradesh. This is one of the greatest scandals of our times.Bhopal is indeed a stain on the face of India.
Today Dow Chemical, a sponsor of this year’s Olympic Games, owns the company responsible for the leak. However it has never addressed the ongoing human rights impact of the catastrophe. As well as raising awareness through art, Amnesty is asking the public to take action, now, by writing to Lord Coe. The industrial world must not wash their hands of the Bhopal disaster and protest the involvement of Dow Chemical being accepted as sponsors of the 2012 Olympics. 17-25 New Inn Yard Shoreditch ec2 3ea From 18th July
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