Laxmi Sisodia walks past a graffiti filled wall of the abandoned former UCIL factory (now DOW Chemical) pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. On the night of December 2, 1984, the factory owned by the U.S. multinational Union Carbide Corporation leaked MIC gas into the air, killing close to 8000 people and exposing over half a million people to the toxic gas, causing permanent disabilities to many. Although estimates on the toll vary, the accident continues to be considered the world’s worst industrial disaster

Laxmi Sisodia walks past a graffiti filled wall of the abandoned former UCIL factory (now DOW Chemical) pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. On the night of December 2, 1984, the factory owned by the U.S. multinational Union Carbide Corporation leaked MIC gas into the air, killing close to 8000 people and exposing over half a million people to the toxic gas, causing permanent disabilities to many. Although estimates on the toll vary, the accident continues to be considered the world’s worst industrial disaster

Story Synopsis

Asna Bee spends the day confined inside her home in in Nawab Colony, Bhopal, India due to disabilities caused by the 1994 MIC gas leak disaster as well as groundwater contamination. Because of reproductive difficulties and disabilities caused by both the leak and the subsequent groundwater contamination, the women in the neighborhoods surrounding the Union Carbide (UCIL) Bhopal facility are deemed undesirable marriage partners. They continue to face significant social stigma. Many are unable to attain economic security and are often viewed as a liability.

The UCIL (now DOW Chemical) pesticide manufacturing plant, established to boost India's "Green Revolution," leaked 27 tons of Methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas on December 2, 1984. The world’s worst industrial disaster killed close to 8,000 people and exposed over half a million people to the toxic gas, causing temporary and permanent disabilities.

The health impacts of the exposure to MIC are being passed down to next generations. Toxic chemicals from the abandoned plant continue to contaminate the soil and groundwater. My photo essay documents the toxic legacy of India’s Green Revolution.

For over three decades the Indian government has continued to show negligence in providing relief to the victims, cleaning up the contamination and punishing the perpetrators. In order to entice foreign investments, developing countries often overlook the environmental, health and safety violations of the corporations that set up operations within their borders.

After a 26-year long legal battle, the Indian court sentenced the chairman of UCIL and seven others guilty of causing death by negligence, while the US corporation responsible for the disaster went scot-free. For many Bhopalis, the Green Revolution continues to be a life long curse.

 Surrounded by overgrown trees, rusting reactors sit inside the abandoned UCIL factory in Bhopal, India. In 2001, US based corporation Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide, inheriting it’s assets as well as it's liabilities. Both Union Carbide and Dow Chemical have consistently declined to compensate the victims, remediate the site, and provide safe drinking water to the neighborhoods they contaminated. They have resisted the disclosure of the composition of the toxic release in the 1984 gas disaster, hindering the accurate diagnoses and treatment of those exposed.   

Surrounded by overgrown trees, rusting reactors sit inside the abandoned UCIL factory in Bhopal, India. In 2001, US based corporation Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide, inheriting it’s assets as well as it's liabilities. Both Union Carbide and Dow Chemical have consistently declined to compensate the victims, remediate the site, and provide safe drinking water to the neighborhoods they contaminated. They have resisted the disclosure of the composition of the toxic release in the 1984 gas disaster, hindering the accurate diagnoses and treatment of those exposed.

 

 An vacant building that contained chemical stockpiles until a recent clean up is located in the abandoned Union Carbide factory in Bhopal India. The 1984 MIC gas leak at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal killed over 8000 people, making it the biggest industrial disaster ever. Toxic material from the past factory operations and the defunct plant continues to contaminate soil and groundwater in the vicinity, impacting the health of many.

An vacant building that contained chemical stockpiles until a recent clean up is located in the abandoned Union Carbide factory in Bhopal India. The 1984 MIC gas leak at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal killed over 8000 people, making it the biggest industrial disaster ever. Toxic material from the past factory operations and the defunct plant continues to contaminate soil and groundwater in the vicinity, impacting the health of many.

 Discarded jars of chemicals sit in the abandoned Union Carbide factory in Bhopal India. The 1984 MIC gas leak at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal killed over 8000 people, making it the biggest industrial disaster ever. Toxic material from the past factory operations and the defunct plant continues to contaminate soil and groundwater in the vicinity, impacting the health of many.    

Discarded jars of chemicals sit in the abandoned Union Carbide factory in Bhopal India. The 1984 MIC gas leak at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal killed over 8000 people, making it the biggest industrial disaster ever. Toxic material from the past factory operations and the defunct plant continues to contaminate soil and groundwater in the vicinity, impacting the health of many. 

 

 A defunct operation panel sits in the abandoned UCIL factory in Bhopal, India where 27-tons of MIC gas leaked on December 2, 1984, killing over 8000 people and exposing over half a million people to the toxic gas. The effects of one of the world’s worst industrial disaster are visible not only in those exposed to MIC gas but also on the subsequent generations. Disabilities are caused both due to genetic mutations passed from gas victims to their children and through the ongoing severe groundwater contamination caused by the former operations and abandonment of UCIL factory.   

A defunct operation panel sits in the abandoned UCIL factory in Bhopal, India where 27-tons of MIC gas leaked on December 2, 1984, killing over 8000 people and exposing over half a million people to the toxic gas. The effects of one of the world’s worst industrial disaster are visible not only in those exposed to MIC gas but also on the subsequent generations. Disabilities are caused both due to genetic mutations passed from gas victims to their children and through the ongoing severe groundwater contamination caused by the former operations and abandonment of UCIL factory.

 

 Children from JP Nagar slums play in a pond inside the UCIL factory. The defunct UCIL facility is surrounded by compromised wall that allows children to trespass parts of the facility with contaminated soil and groundwater. On warm days children often play in the pond to cool off.   

Children from JP Nagar slums play in a pond inside the UCIL factory. The defunct UCIL facility is surrounded by compromised wall that allows children to trespass parts of the facility with contaminated soil and groundwater. On warm days children often play in the pond to cool off.

 

 Infants who died during the 1984 Methly Isocynate gas leak caused by the negligence of the American corporation Union Carbide, (now DOW Chemical), are retained of the Gandhi Medical College in Bhopal, India. Almost half of the pregnant women exposed to Union Carbide's killer gas aborted spontaneously

Infants who died during the 1984 Methly Isocynate gas leak caused by the negligence of the American corporation Union Carbide, (now DOW Chemical), are retained of the Gandhi Medical College in Bhopal, India. Almost half of the pregnant women exposed to Union Carbide's killer gas aborted spontaneously

 A hearing and speech impaired woman bathes a boy in Qazi Camp, a neighborhood adjacent to the abandoned UCIL plant in Bhopal, India. The groundwater in the vicinity is considered carcinogenic and mutagenic due to toxic releases from the former operations and abandonment of the UCIL factory. Clean water supply provided by the government is often intermittent and inadequate, forcing the people to use toxic groundwater from hand pumps for bathing and washing.

A hearing and speech impaired woman bathes a boy in Qazi Camp, a neighborhood adjacent to the abandoned UCIL plant in Bhopal, India. The groundwater in the vicinity is considered carcinogenic and mutagenic due to toxic releases from the former operations and abandonment of the UCIL factory. Clean water supply provided by the government is often intermittent and inadequate, forcing the people to use toxic groundwater from hand pumps for bathing and washing.

 Neeta Kolkanwar (right) sits besides her son Siddesh Kolkanwar at the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre in Bhopal, India. Kolkanwar suffers from mild physical disabilities while her son Siddesh is both physically and psychologically disabled. Currently, 250 children receive long-term care and rehabilitation free of cost at the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre. Many more await for a spot to open up at the rehabilitation center in order to get treated.   

Neeta Kolkanwar (right) sits besides her son Siddesh Kolkanwar at the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre in Bhopal, India. Kolkanwar suffers from mild physical disabilities while her son Siddesh is both physically and psychologically disabled. Currently, 250 children receive long-term care and rehabilitation free of cost at the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre. Many more await for a spot to open up at the rehabilitation center in order to get treated.

 

 Waheeda Bee feeds water to her severely disabled son Sameer Hassan, 19. The family lives in Qazi Camp, a neighborhood adjacent to the abandoned UCIL plant in Bhopal, India. The groundwater in the vicinity is considered carcinogenic and mutagenic due to toxic releases from the former operations and abandonment of the UCIL factory. Hassan’s father was exposed to MIC gas during the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak disaster   

Waheeda Bee feeds water to her severely disabled son Sameer Hassan, 19. The family lives in Qazi Camp, a neighborhood adjacent to the abandoned UCIL plant in Bhopal, India. The groundwater in the vicinity is considered carcinogenic and mutagenic due to toxic releases from the former operations and abandonment of the UCIL factory. Hassan’s father was exposed to MIC gas during the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak disaster

 

 Manisha Ahirwar, 10 (right), crawls besides her mother Manju Ahirwar during a physical therapy session at the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre in Bhopal, India. Manisha is both physical and psychologically disabled. While Manju was pregnant with Manisha, the family moved to a neighborhood outside the defunct UCIL facility .  Consumption of contaminated groundwater during pregnancy resulted in her daughter being born with disabilities.   

Manisha Ahirwar, 10 (right), crawls besides her mother Manju Ahirwar during a physical therapy session at the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre in Bhopal, India. Manisha is both physical and psychologically disabled. While Manju was pregnant with Manisha, the family moved to a neighborhood outside the defunct UCIL facility. Consumption of contaminated groundwater during pregnancy resulted in her daughter being born with disabilities.

 

 Asna Bee, a 20-year-old who suffers from severe limb defects, lives in Nawab Colony, Bhopal, India, a neighborhood impacted by the 1994 MIC gas leak disaster as well as groundwater contamination. Due to reproductive difficulties and disabilities resulting from exposure to the MIC gas leak and consumption of contaminated groundwater many women in the neighborhoods surrounding the UCIL facility are deemed undesirable marriage partners. They continue to face significant social stigma. Many are unable to attain economic security and are often viewed as a liability   

Asna Bee, a 20-year-old who suffers from severe limb defects, lives in Nawab Colony, Bhopal, India, a neighborhood impacted by the 1994 MIC gas leak disaster as well as groundwater contamination. Due to reproductive difficulties and disabilities resulting from exposure to the MIC gas leak and consumption of contaminated groundwater many women in the neighborhoods surrounding the UCIL facility are deemed undesirable marriage partners. They continue to face significant social stigma. Many are unable to attain economic security and are often viewed as a liability

 

 Zaid (right), 14, chats with his friends Mannan (left) and Shifaan (center) during a break at the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre in Bhopal, India. Zaid was diagnosed with Mucopolysaccharidosis Mongolism at birth. He has been receiving therapy at the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre since 2011.   

Zaid (right), 14, chats with his friends Mannan (left) and Shifaan (center) during a break at the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre in Bhopal, India. Zaid was diagnosed with Mucopolysaccharidosis Mongolism at birth. He has been receiving therapy at the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre since 2011.

 

 An overhead water tank sits in New Arif Nagar, a neighborhood adjacent to the area where UCIL dumped toxic sludge prior to the MIC gas leak disaster in Bhopal, India. In recent years, the government began installing overhead water tanks to provide clean drinking water in the communities surrounding the UCIL facility where the groundwater is toxic. For decades, people in these communities have been consuming contaminated groundwater resulting in severe health issues and disabilities.   

An overhead water tank sits in New Arif Nagar, a neighborhood adjacent to the area where UCIL dumped toxic sludge prior to the MIC gas leak disaster in Bhopal, India. In recent years, the government began installing overhead water tanks to provide clean drinking water in the communities surrounding the UCIL facility where the groundwater is toxic. For decades, people in these communities have been consuming contaminated groundwater resulting in severe health issues and disabilities.

 

 Ankit Kureen (left) and Tarun Verma (right) push a swing carrying classmates Sabia (left) and Alisha Bano (right), in the play area of Chingari Rehabilitation Centre, Bhopal, India. All four are going through therapy to align their hearing and speech skills at the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre in Bhopal, India. Their disabilities were likely caused due to their parent’s exposure to MIC gas leak during the 1983 gas leak disaster   

Ankit Kureen (left) and Tarun Verma (right) push a swing carrying classmates Sabia (left) and Alisha Bano (right), in the play area of Chingari Rehabilitation Centre, Bhopal, India. All four are going through therapy to align their hearing and speech skills at the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre in Bhopal, India. Their disabilities were likely caused due to their parent’s exposure to MIC gas leak during the 1983 gas leak disaster