2009 - 2014 (on-going)
Bhopal is not yet at peace.
Almost three decades have passed since the infamous ‘1984 Union Carbide Gas Disaster’, but many families are still trapped within the nightmare that began on a grim, distant night, searching still for the possibility of restoring health and dignity to their community.
Half a million people living in the capital of Madhya Pradesh were exposed to the toxic cloud released by the plant when all safety mechanisms failed to work. Thousands died it its wake.
Since then, in the consciousness of people the world over, Bhopal has been associated with the haunting images of that night and its aftermath, tragic demonstrations of the dangers and failures of unregulated industrialization and indiscriminate pollution.
Today, Union Carbide’s legacy is affecting the health of those who lived on: approximately 100,000 people are chronically ill from the continued effects of the gas leak, while tainted drinking water has caused a sharp increase in birth defects and severe disabilities in children.
Still buried around the abandoned complex, the hazardous waste left behind by Union Carbide has penetrated the underlying aquifers, with samples as far as three kilometers from the plant showing dangerous levels of pesticides, organo-chlorines and heavy metals.
Since the staggering 11.6 billions USD acquisition of Union Carbide by DOW Chemical in 2001, the powerful American corporation has single-handedly refused to accept any responsibility for the insidious contamination.
A long-running lawsuit against DOW Chemical in the USA – sponsored by The Bhopal Medical Appeal and other groups of 1984 ‘Gas Survivors’ – is seeking damages for injury, medical monitoring, and for the mitigation of water and soil. New evidence submitted in court on January 29, 2014, and consisting of statements from former Union Carbide employees, could effectively demonstrate that the company played a direct role in designing the plant, the denial of which has been central to DOW’s argument.
Alarmingly, while defending itself in court, the chemical giant has been awarded a decade-long contract as a worldwide partner of the Olympic Movement, from 2010 to 2020.
Throughout the years fighting in courts, remarkable things have also been happening in Bhopal, as political intransigence over the enduring effects of the disasters left the survivors with no choice but to take control of their own destiny. They organized themselves into groups tenaciously campaigning for justice, and even built their own community health programs with remarkable success. Amongst these organizations is Chingari Trust Rehabilitation Centre, founded by Rashida Bi and Champa Devi Shukla, who were suddenly widowed in 1984 and received almost no help for their plight.
Since April 2009, when visiting Bhopal’s affected communities, I have strived to portray my subjects with intimacy, meaning and depth, trying to comprehend the victims’ suffering, and allowing these intense feelings to lead me when finding expression through my camera.
I aspire to present photographs that can convey emotions, and stimulate our deepest feelings of compassion and brotherhood, in the hope of becoming a catalyst in the promotion of international awareness, solidarity and action for the people of Bhopal.
Along its roads I have met many kind, genuine Indians that hold life very dear to their hearts: relentless spirits who have set out to win their battle for justice, and to create a honorable future for those bearing the everlasting scars of Union Carbide’s negligence.
Courageous, resilient citizens that since 1984 have struggled to hold the culprits accountable, and to inspire others around the world to raise their voices, stand united and support each other.
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