The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

01 July 2008

Support the Bhopal victims

The Bhopal Disaster of 1984 was an industrial disaster caused by the accidental release of 40 tonnes of Methyl Isocyanate from a Union Carbide India pesticide plant (50.9% owned by the Union Carbide corporation) located in the heart of the city of Bhopal, in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

According to the Bhopal Medical Appeal, around 500,000 people were exposed to the leaking chemical. The death toll was estimated by the BBC at nearly 3,000 people who died immediately and at least 15,000 from related illnesses subsequently, although this may be a conservative estimate. Over 120,000 people continue to suffer from the effects of the disaster – such as breathing difficulties, cancer, serious birth-defects, blindness, gynaecological complications and other related problems.

Alongside the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Bhopal rates as the major industrial disaster of the 20th century. After a fight, some compensation was obtained from Union Carbide, but it was not nearly enough and many of the victims found it hard to access. Nearly 25 years later, teh disaster is still causing misery.

After marching more than 500 miles from Bhopal to Delhi, a group survivors and their children, with ages ranging from 6-year old Nagma to eighty-plus year old Gulabo Bai, sat at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi for over 70 days in Spring and Summer 2008 to highlight the unresolved issues of the Bhopal disaster, braving dust storms and heavy rainfall. They asked for a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh even before they began their march to Delhi. They are demanding the formation of a Special Commission on Bhopal, and for legal action to be taken against Dow Chemical Company, the successor company to Union Carbide which inherited the liability for the ongoing consequences of the disaster.

The Prime Minister remained deaf to their pleas. Then nine of the survivors and supporters began an indefinite hunger strike in Delhi starting on June 10. You can read more about the march, sit-in and campaign at

Penelope Doyle decided to fast for one day on 29 June 2008 in solidarity with the survivors of Bhopal. She became part of the International Hunger Strike Relay. And she writes as follows: “I am doing my part to express my support with the survivors. I am writing to ask you to help in whatever capacity possible.” Here are some of the ways that you could support Penelope and the Bhopal Survivors:

1. Join the International Hunger Fast and sign up to fast for a day or more at

2. Donate to the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. Please send the money that you would spend on a day’s worth of food to support the Bhopalis’ struggle by going to

3. Call the Prime Minister of India's office to express your disappointment in India’s leaders who are supposed to be there to help the people. Call from overseas at: +91-11-2301 8939 or +91-11-2301-1166. Or send an online fax to the Prime Minster's office at

4. Spread the word. If you create awareness as a first step, then action will follow. Visit the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal website and the Bhopal Medical Appeal website at for more information. Or for the Union Carbide viewpoint and their statement about the disaster, go to: