13102 Bhopal Second Disaster

April 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

by Alex Masi
Bhopal, India, Asia

Three decades after the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, in central India, children are being affected by its poisonous legacy: with their desperate families, they suffer from severe illnesses and disabilities caused by heavily contaminated drinking water.

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The report

Bhopal is not yet at peace. Almost three decades have passed since the 1984 gas disaster, caused by the American corporation Union Carbide, (now DOW Chemical) but many families are still trapped in a nightmare that began on that distant night. Half a million people were exposed to the toxic cloud released from the plant. Thousands died within a few weeks from exposure. Its poisonous legacy is not only affecting the health of the survivors, but also the wellbeing of their children, many of whom are suffering from severe neurological and physical disorders. Left buried in various spots around the abandoned industrial complex, the toxic waste of Union Carbide is relentlessly penetrating the area’s underground water reservoirs, and contaminating the people living nearby. Since the 2001 acquisition of Union Carbide by DOW Chemical, for a staggering 11.6 billions USD, the American corporation has single-handedly refused to accept any responsibility. An on-going lawsuit against DOW Chemical in the USA – sponsored by The Bhopal Medical Appeal and other groups of gas-survivors, is still pending before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City, USA. It seeks damages for injury, medical monitoring, and for the clean-up of water and soil. Ironically, DOW Chemical has recently been awarded a ten-year contract as a worldwide Olympic partner, and as the official chemistry company for the Olympic Movement from 2010 to 2020.While documenting the on-going health crisis in Bhopal, I strived to portray my subjects with intimacy, meaning and depth. I aimed to present images that would convey emotions, and stimulate our deeper and most innate feelings: our senses compassion, brotherhood and justice, in the hope of becoming an active catalyst for the promotion of awareness, action and change for the people of Bhopal. I struggled to understand and ‘feel’ the suffering of the affected children and their families. I then allowed it to lead me when it was time to find expression through my images. In a place where one can find such despair, we must also seek hope and inspiration; where we witness sadness, there must also be moments of joy. This is why I also chose to show a few moments simply celebrating life in the contaminated colonies surrounding Union Carbide.

The author

Since becoming a photographer, Alex Masi has devoted his attention on  exposing peculiar issues of human-made injustice, focusing mainly on children: their living conditions, their health and their human rights.

Alex believes documentary photography to be an active catalyst in promoting awareness, political and juridical change, and in fostering action by individuals, NGOs and governments.

His images have appeared on numerous international publications. A selection of recognitions includes:
10 / 2012: Honourable Mention – ‘Unicef Picture of the Year’;
04 / 2012: ‘FotoEvidence Book Award’;
02 / 2012: 3rd Prize – ‘Days Japan Photojournalism Awards’;
11 / 2011: Italian Journalistic Prize ‘Enzo Baldoni’;
10 / 2011: ‘Getty Grant for Good’;
10 / 2011: ‘The Photographers Giving Back Award’ assigned Alex a grant benefiting one of his subjects and her family in Bhopal;
02 / 2011: ‘Focus For Humanity Fellowship’;
06 / 2010: ‘Harry Chapin Media Award for Photojournalism’;

The project

This project will enable the Chingari Trust and Rehabilitation Centre to enhance community outreach initiatives, increasing access to health care for disabled children affected by water contamination.

Project activities will include:

– Monthly community outreach “camps” in various gas or water affected communities; medical assessments of sick and disabled children in each area by Chingari therapists and medical professionals;

– Providing support and guidance services: raising awareness about facilities provided by the state government, for disabled children, and how families can obtain them;

– Information about accessing essential vaccinations from government hospitals;

– Counseling expectant mothers; general contaminated water awareness and advice, awareness of contaminated areas along with possible effects of toxic contaminants.

– Educational and sensitization workshops with children and youths and other families in local communities.

The entity

The Bhopal Medical Appeal provides core funding to two clinics in Bhopal, India, which provide free treatment to families affected by the deadly gas leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide plant on December 3rd 1984.

Presently, 100,000 people are still chronically ill from the effects of that night, while thousands have been made ill due to contamination of water by poisonous chemicals leaking from the abandoned plant.

The Bhopal Medical Appeal’s first project was the Sambhavna Trust Clinic, which has treated over 27,000 chronically ill people. The Appeal became an independent registered charity on January 1st, 2007. Its objective is to help alleviate the suffering of people who have been affected by chemical disasters, primarily in Bhopal,

Since 2008, the Appeal has also provided major funding for the Chingari Trust, a Bhopal organization set up to provide health support and, special education for children suffering as a result of their family’s exposure to toxic gas and water.


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