Bhopal gas tragedy, India

The biggest industrial disaster in the last 30 years in India, chronic diseases, malformations, death, severe contamination. Affected people only going to receive 5oo dollars compensation from the Dow Chemical company.


On the night of 2nd December, 1984 a leak of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas and other chemicals from the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) pesticide plant in Bhopal, resulted in the exposure of hundreds of thousands of people. Over the next few days up to 8,000 people died and the case is counted as the worst industrial disaster in human history. According to the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB), more than 150,000 gas victims are chronically ill, and 50,000 or so are too sick to even work for a living. Till date, more than 25,000 have died as a result of exposure to the poison gases. The toxic wastes that lie strewn in and around the factory has leaked its poisons into the groundwater.

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Basic Data
NameBhopal gas tragedy, India
ProvinceMadhya Pradesh
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Industrial and Utilities conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Chemical industries
Specific CommoditiesPesticides
Chemical products
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe company produced 5,000 tons of pesticides each year, having 14 plants operating throughout the country.

On the night of 2-3 December, 40 tons of MIC leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide plant.

The poison gas cloud enveloped an area of over 20 square kilometres before the residents could escape from its lethal grip.

A total of 145 legal actions involving around 200,000 actors have been carried out in the United States against Union Carbide.
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population100000
Start Date1984
Company Names or State EnterprisesUnion Carbide India Limited (UCIL) from India
Dow Chemical Company from United States of America
Relevant government actorsUnited States Government, India Supreme Court, Madhya Pradesh Government, India Government, MoEF - India, SCOTUS - Usa, District Court of Bhopal, CBI - India, Departement of Chemicals and Petrochemicals - India
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersGreenpeace, Justice for Bhopal, AID - India, PSI - India, Yes Men, Students for Bhopal, CorpWatch - USA, PANNA - USA, SACEM, Amnesty International, Center for Constitutional Rights, Earthrights International
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Air pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Global warming
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Specific impacts on women, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Strengthening of participation
Development of AlternativesThe victims want to force DOW company to pay for the damages and the restoration of the area.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Although there was a trial that made the company to pay an amount of US$470 million dollar, the affected population claims it is insignificant and demands a proper environmental restoration and payment of the true liabilities.
Sources and Materials

State of Madhya Pradesh through CBI vs. Warren Anderson, et al. - Judgment, Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Bhopal, 7 June 2010 (see attachment)

Judicial case No. 8460 / 1996 State of Madhya Pradesh vs. Sri Warren Anderson & others
[click to view]


Environmental Movements in India, Pawar,S.N.; Patil,R.B.;Salunkhe, S.A. codice: IN 015

The Violence of the Green Revolution, Shiva, Vandana

Bhopal gas tragedy, The worst Industrial Disaster In Human History, Mukherjee, Suroopa

Cloning Bhopal, Exposing the dangers in Delhis environment, Dubey, Sunita; Bansal, Shipra; Pawar, Deepika

Bhopal: Exposure of a corporate crime, by Wanchoo A., Greenpeace India
[click to view]


International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal
[click to view]

NIghtmare in Bhopal, December 3rd, 2004, Greenpeace USA
[click to view]

2012 London Olympics: India to Raise Issue of Dow Sponsorship over Bhopal Link, by Prasad, B.
[click to view]

Bhopal gas tragedy victims press on with appeal arguments in U.S., September 5th, 2015, by Lakshman, N.
[click to view]

Media Links

Other Documents

Protest in Bhopal, December 2014 More than 30 year after the catastrophe the mobilization for justice in Bhopal continues, ICJB
[click to view]

The ruins of the Union Carbide Corp. pesticides factory The Union Carbide Corp never depolluted the site of the tragedy, while the iron keeps rusting, the remaining gases pollute the surroundings, Reuters
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorLucie Greyl
Last update27/10/2015