Suketu Mehta: A Cloud Still Hangs Over Bhopal

Roundup: Talking About History

[Suketu Mehta, a journalism professor at New York University, is the author of “Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found.”]

IN the Mumbai kindergarten my son went to, the children never had to clean up after themselves; that was the servants’ job. So I really liked the school my son attended when we moved back to Brooklyn, where the teachers made the children tidy up at the end of the day. “Cleanup time, cleanup time!” my 6-year-old sang, joyfully gathering his scraps. It’s a wonderful American tradition: you always clean up the mess you made.

This is the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster, an epic mess that started one night when a pesticide plant owned by the American chemical giant Union Carbide leaked a cloud of poisonous gas. Before the sun rose, almost 4,000 human beings capable of love and anguish sank to their knees and did not get up. Half a million more fell ill, many with severely damaged lungs and eyes.

An additional 15,000 people have since died from the aftereffects, and 10 to 30 people are said to die every month from exposure to the hundreds of tons of toxic waste left over in the former factory. But amazingly, the site still has not been cleaned up, because Dow Chemical, which since acquired Union Carbide, refuses to accept any responsibility. The groundwater is contaminated; children of the survivors suffer from genetic abnormalities; and the victims have long since run out of their measly compensation and are begging on the streets...

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Arnold Shcherban - 12/4/2009

<It’s a wonderful American tradition: you always clean up the mess you made.>
I would qualify this tradition as being
American with the: "...unless the mess
is made to "unimportant people" and the "cleaning" would cost too much money.
Then the mess is not cleaned even within
the US itself.