Twenty-four years after the leakage of methyl isocynate gas from the Union Carbide factory killed over 10,000 people,UNESCO is all set to forward to the Government of India a representation from the survivors of the tragedy who have sought it’s intervention to protect,decontaminate,repair,and restore the plant structure at the factory site as an industrial World Heritage on the lines the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and the Auswitz and Buchenwald concentration camps,in order to preserve the site as a physical reminder of the tragedy.
In a petition submitted to the UNESCO’s Representative to India,Minja Yang,members of five organisations,comprising survivors of the tragedy,have underlined the criticality of preserving the “memory of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal for realising the possibility of a world free of disasters” and have sought inclusion in the list of World Heritage monuments in the Additional Cultural category as a Modern Industrial Heritage site.
“The plant structures are the physical heart of this movement to preserve the memory and lessons of the tragedy for future generations. We believe that the structures of the MIC and Sevin plants and few remaining structures are,in the likeness of the remains of the concentration camps at Auswitz and Buchenwald,of tremendous educative value for future generations across the world and therefore,must be preserved,” the petition states.
The survivors have highlighted how “25 years of abandon since the tragedy” has left the factory structure in a serious state of disrepair. “The situation has become extremely critical because as part of the official plans of the state Government’s decontamination process (that have only recently been available to us),the two plant structures in the factory site that were central to the leakage of toxic gases are slated to be dismantled,” the petitioners have stated.
“It is an interesting case of heritage in terms of memory of a civilization. The physical testimony of a man-made disaster is important because it becomes a memory of what not to repeat. Also,for educational purposes it is important that memories of Bhopal tragedy are kept alive,” Minja Yang told The Indian Express. “Our powers are limited. And since this site is not even on the tentative list as yet,the Indian Government will have to prepare a nomination for it. We are writing to the Central and the state Government. They may wish to reconsider this case for further study,” she said.
In 2005,the Madhya Pradesh Government had announced plans to set up a memorial at the site of the factory and a team of architects,selected through a national competition,were commissioned to design the memorial.