Toxic: A 21st Century Bhopal

Trolling through vintage ads on the great site, Found in Mom’s Basement, I came across this chilling reminder of the world’s worst industrial accident.

The "Hand of God"

The 1984 disaster, when half a million residents of the Indian city of Bhopal were exposed to a cloud of toxic gas released from a Union Carbide pesticide plant, left a legacy of death (estimates run up as high as 25,000) and long-term sickness which continues today.

What also continues, of course, are the law suits.

Nearly 25 years after the choking fog of methyl isocyanate blanketed the city in the middle of the night, there are still criminal charges pending and a class action yet to be completed.

It made me wonder how, at a time when green politics are becoming more and more mainstream, the aftermath of the Bhopal disaster would play out today?

And it looks like we may have an opportunity to find out.

Trafigura, an oil trading company, has been caught dumping toxic sludge, in various locations around the port of Abidjan in Ivory Coast. As with the Bhopal tragedy, those who were affected are some of the world’s poorest.

A Dutch worker attempts to clean the waste in Abidjan

A Dutch worker attempts to clean the waste in Abidjan

Similarly, Trafigura is an immensely powerful company, both financially and politically, with a turnover of £73bn last year (twice the annual GDP of Ivory Coast) and political advisers and board members up to Lord Strathclyde, the leader of the House of Lords.

Is it possible that a new, and greener, political agenda may advance the cause of the 30,000 who suffered serious injury and long-lasting health impairment in a more timely fashion than their Indian counterparts in 1984?

Given that the dumping occurred back in August 2006 and Trafigura employ a highly paid team of PR consultants and lawyers to deny responsibility and keep the story from getting out of control…

…I wouldn’t hold your breath.