Foot Footprint Curriculum 2005


Making connections

Cocacola & Chai Footprint of Cocacola
Footprint of Chai
Circles and Lines


Bhopal & doing good
The Story




BhopalIt began as a desire to feed the people. It ended in a tragedy.

Union Carbide, an American Multi-National Company, came to India in 1969 to make and supply a chemical that protected crops against insects. Such a chemical is called and insecticide and this insecticide was called Sevin. The Union Carbide factory was built to the highest standards, with the most modern technology. It was the shining star of Bhopal. But then something happened that even American technology could not control: the monsoons failed. No water, no crops. No crops no insects. No insects, no need for an insecticide. No sales of insecticide, no profit. Union Carbide lost money. To save money, the company reduced the safety standards in the factory.

Five minutes past midnight on 2-3 December, 1984, over 40 tonnes of highly poisonous gas called Methyl Isocyanate exploded out of the Union Carbide factory. Thousands of people died immediately. At least 10,000 have died in the years that have passed, and 10 more are still dying every month because of diseases directly related to the tragedy.

The hundreds of thousands who survived, however, face a fate worse than death. They suffer from breathlessness, eye problems, brain damage, problems in having children, and are likely to suffer from many illnesses including cancers and mental problems.

Eighteen years later the American company, Union Carbide, continues to refuse to admit responsibility for this accident and continues to withhold information. Eighteen years later the Government of India still fails to provide basic medical care and health services for those still suffering.

It started with a desire to feed the people of India. But was the right path chosen?

1. Feeding the People

In order to become self-sufficient in agriculture production [in order to grow enough food to feed all the people in India without importing food], in the late 1960s India began what has since been called the ‘Green Revolution’. It was a revolution in the way food was produced: in the type of seed sown; in the fertiliser spread; in the pesticide sprayed. The revolution was a success. It increased food production dramatically and India became self-sufficient in all of the cereal crops, like wheat and barley and rice.

But this worthy goal of self-sufficiency brought with it certain problems and these problems were, and still are today, far reaching.

Problems with Pests

In order to produce more than one harvest a year, the crops needed lots of water and fertiliser. To maximise land use and make it easier to spread the water and fertiliser, the crops were grown in larger fields, and only a single type of crop was grown. This is called monoculture. Monoculture is 10 times more vulnerable to disease and insects. In the 1970s and 1980s the Punjab, one of the most intensive Green Revolution states in India, suffered from disease and insects feeding off the crops, both of which decimated the crops.

This problem was not new but centuries old. Insects have been responsible for our worst catastrophes: the grasshopper plagued Ancient Egypt; the aphid wiped out French vineyards; the Colarado beetle destroyed the Irish potato crop, causing the famine in which many people starved to death or emigrated to America. For thousands of years human beings have been fighting a war against these insects. In Nepal, farmers put up notices in their rice fields saying ‘No Entry to Insects’! In Ancient Rome, pregnant women danced in circles around their fruit trees. Malaysians attached dead toads to bamboo poles to frighten away the white fly from their rice fields.

More practically by flooding the fields at certain times of the year, farmers in South India managed to drown many destructive insects. Vegetable-based solutions that repelled insects were found to be effective to spray on plants. Minerals, such as arsenic and copper sulphate that had the same effect of repelling insects, began to be used early in the last century, the 1900’s.

Problems with pesticides

Then came DDT, Dichloro-Diphenyl Trichloroethane. Discovered by a Swiss chemist in 1946, DDT was immediately welcomed as a Scientific God, because it killed the malaria carrying mosquitoes. Because it killed all insects including those that ate the crops, crop yields increased by over 60%. Every farmer wanted DDT.

But then, 20 years later, it was discovered that DDT also affected the earth, mammals, birds, fish and human beings. It caused cancer. It caused women to give birth to children with abnormalities. It caused skin diseases. In 1975 it was declared illegal in Western Countries, (Although it is still used in parts of Asia and in particular, India. Just last week, the Government of Uttra Pradesh sprayed the streets of Sarnath with DDT to kill the mosquitoes before the Chief Minister arrived the next day).

So what could the farmers do about the pests? The farming industry was impatient. The race was on for scientists to find a product that would destroy insects but not damage the environment or cause health problems to human beings.

Union Carbide and India

In 1957 chemists in a large American company, Union Carbide found such a formula, and called it SEVIN. Sevin was an insecticide. It killed all the common household insects as well as those that destroyed the crops. According to Union Carbide, a farmer could spray Sevin on his crops with no harm to human beings. Sevin was the new Scientific God the world was waiting for. Naturally as soon as Indian farmers heard about Sevin, they wanted it.

In 1969 the Indian government invited Union Carbide, who already had other industries established in India, to build a Sevin factory in India, and Union Carbide chose the city of Bhopal. At first the ingredients of the insecticide were only mixed in Bhopal but in 1979, after a complex industrial plant was built, one of the main ingredients of Sevin, Methyl Iso Cyanate, started to be produced.

1. Words and phrases
im / port / ing
colon and semi colon
: used for introducing a phrase list, separated with semi colons;

drama / dramatic eg the dramatic cow fell dramatically. From adjective to adverb

cereal crops
far reaching
Maxim, maximum, minimum, minimal, mini,

Mono – one Culture – grow. Single growth. Only one crop

From the Roman times when in order to instill fear in to the soldiers should they think about deserting, one in every ten of the men were killed. Now a days it means totally destroyed.

vulnerable to
Weaker/ likely to get


malaria carrying mosquito
short hand for saying mosquitoes that carry malaria

eg gun carrying man, whisky drinking man, hard studying boy
the race was on
complex industrial plant
Idea of plant being a factory – factory being something organic

2. Slow failure of Union Carbide

Union Carbide was the shining star of Bhopal. As soon as the building of the plant started, it brought hope, expectation and employment, not only to skilled Indian chemists eager to work with a prestigious multi-national company, but also to the hundreds of itinerant travelling workers. Many of these travelling workers were tribal people, called Adivasis, who had come from Orissa. They were often farmers who had migrated to Bhopal desperate for work after their own crops had been eaten by the same insects that Union Carbide’s Sevin insecticide was designed to kill.

Union Carbide had built their factory close to the centre of the city and around the slum settlements of these Adivasi people. One settlement was called Orya Bustee, and it was from here that most of the unskilled workers were recruited.

The Union Carbide factory was built to the highest standards, with the latest American technology. The safety standards were strict: everyone who worked near the dangerous MIC tanks wore masks and safety suits; engineers checked the refrigeration of the MIC tanks and the entire plant every few hours.

Then something even the American technology had no control over happened. The rains failed to come for three years running. With no rain, there were no crops. With no crops, there were no insects. With no insects, there was no need for Sevin. Union Carbide began to loose money. In America they discussed the company’s future and, in 1982, they decided to cut their losses and close the plant down. They began running down the plant. No more MIC was manufactured but, despite of the danger, the old MIC was still stored in three tanks. To save money the refrigeration of MIC was turned off. The alarm to alert if the temperature rose too high in the tanks, was disconnected. The flare (flame), used to burn off escaping gasses in the event of an accident, was put out.

2. Words and phrases

Shining star of Bhopal

skilled / unskilled
give examples of skilled and unskilled workers
Give examples of multi-nationals in India. (Cocacola, Colgate, Pepsi)

Give examples of national company’s (Tata, Birla)
travelled to
asked to join the work force
high standards
High standards / safety standards fell = things don’t get fixed.
cut their losses
running down
3a. Five past midnight 1984

On the night of December 2, 1984, during routine maintenance operations in the Methyl Iso Cyanate (MIC) plant, at about 9.30 p.m., Rehman Khan, a young 29 year old Muslim engineer, was told to turn the water on, to flush out the pipes with water. It should have been a straight forward cleaning operation, but one of the caps to MIC tank No 610 was not sealed properly allowing a large quantity of water to enter storage tank No. 610. This started a runaway reaction. There was a dramatic increase of temperature and pressure in the tank before 40 tonnes of MIC along with hydrogen cyanide (a by-product of MIC and water mixed) and other chemicals exploded out of the tank and into the night air of Bhopal at just after midnight.

None of the safety systems worked.

The wind quickly blew the dark cloud of poisonous gas directly over Orya Bustee where that night the Orissa Adivasi’s were celebrating a wedding of two popular members of their tribe.


The poisonous gas eventually spread over 40 kilometers.


Thousands of people were killed immediately. Hundreds of thousands could not breath. Blinded by the gas, they ran in panic to get away from the poisonous clouds, but not able to see they ran into each other. They screamed out as they fell over each other. But then something more terrible happened. As the cyanide filled people’s lungs, they began to cough, then choke, and then they opened their mouths but no sound came; they could not breath. Vomiting up clots of blackish blood, people tried to rip off their clothes in an effort to get air into their bodies. 

3a. Words and phrases
Routine maintenance operation
straight forward
run away reaction
3b The heroic Stationmaster, Sharma

At Bhopal Railway station, as it normally normally happened every midnight, people were waiting for the arrival in 20 minutes of the Gorakpur Express. The platform was full of tired watchful passengers. Some, fearful of thieves, had chained their luggage to their ankles as they slept. A phone rang, and Deputy Station Master, Sharma picked it up. It was someone from Union Carbide.

‘There has been an explosion. Poisonous gas has leaked out. The wind is blowing it in the direction of the station. People are dying. Do what you can.’

Sharma looked out of the window in his office, and saw people vomiting and coughing. The gas had arrived. A vision of horror passed through the Stationmaster’s mind: hundreds of passengers were speeding toward Bhopal and certain death. He immediately sent 4 men up the line with lanterns to try to stop the train from arriving, but the engine driver thought they were drunken revellers fooling around. Too late, he ran over them.

When Sharma saw the train approaching the platform with a heavy heart, he realised that his first plan had failed. The train slowly entered the station. Sharma ran up the platform, jumping over the dead and dying people, avoiding peoples outstretched arms grasping him. Reaching driver, he waved his white flag, shouting: ‘All clear, depart immediately!’ The Gorakhpur Express departed, and with it hundreds of lives were saved. The deputy stationmaster collapsed soon after.

3b Words and phrases
Act out the telephone call and Sharma’s dramatic action
Discuss ‘vision of horror’
heavy heart

3c Day break. What was the gas?

As the sun rose over Bhopal that morning, the government Hamidia hospital was unrecognisable as a hospital. It looked more like a place of death. Doctors were overwhelmed with the number of suffering people, and had no space for the amount of dead.

They had no information on the leaked gas and so did not know the right medicine to give. They telephoned Union Carbide. When the doctor in charge telephoned Union Carbide and spoke to the medical officer, Dr. Loya, he was told: ‘The leaked gas is similar to tear gas. All that the exposed people need to do is wash their eyes with water!’

Something more powerful than water was necessary. People were dying like flies sprayed with DDT. Of those who lived, desperate crying mothers were bringing in their dying children, and men wandered around crazed and bewildered, their minds affected by the gas.


Union Carbide refused to provide any information about the gas then or later. For up to 5 years after the tragedy, doctors in Bhopal prescribed antibiotics, steroids and other drugs –  none of which would help, and all of which were expensive. Had the medical doctors known that when MIC broke down it released hydrocynanide acid, they would have also known that there was an antidote, a common place substance called Sodium Trio-sulphate. This might have saved thousands of lives. But Union Carbide said nothing.Feeding on the failure of the government hospitals, private doctors began to prosper in Bhopal, and many fleeced the suffering victims of the small amount of money ($100) that was immediately given to each of them by the Government of India. An estimated 70% of the doctors who came to Bhopal were not professionally qualified. Hundreds of clinics prospered. There was money to be made here


After a lengthy fight, and 10 years later, Union Carbide agreed to a build hospital in Bhopal. It was built more than 11 kilometers away from the gas affected area and is therefore unlikely to be of any use to the ailing survivors.

3c Words and phrases
dying like flies
crazed and bewildered
feeding on the failure

4. The official death toll

The official Government of India figures for the number of people who died that night or soon after are 2,500. But everyone knows this number is wrong. It does not take into account the thousands of dead bodies that were dumped into government trucks very early in the morning of the disaster. It does not take into account the sale of over 4,000 shrouds sold immediately afterwards and used exclusively for dead Muslims. It does not take into account the deaths among the 400,000 people who immediately left Bhopal in panic and died later in their villages.

Unofficial and more correct estimates of deaths are over 6,000 immediately and 10,000 in the aftermath.

Eighteen years after the tragedy, people are still dying because of the poisoned gas. The Government stopped recording deaths in 1992 but because unofficial groups are still working with the survivors of Bhopal, we know that about 10 people continue to die each month from exposure related illnesses.

Living is a ‘ fate worse than death’

For eighteen years the people of Bhopal have suffered and continued to suffer from damage to the lungs, brains, kidneys, stomachs and muscles, as well as reproductive and immune systems. Women suffer from spontaneous abortions and give birth to abnormal children. Both men and women suffer from mental health problems. Damages caused to the immune system (the body system that resists disease) has made them vulnerable to infections. Many, for example, have tuberculosis. People are more than 20% more likely to get cancer. Babies continue to be born with defects, women are still having spontaneous abortions. 

4. Words and phrases
spontaneous abortions
immune system
5. The Money

Despite the concrete evidence that the tragedy was caused by the negligence of Union Carbide, the company never admitted it was responsible. And the Government of India did not make them admit responsibility. Instead five years later, in February 1989, the Government of India agreed to a settlement of just US$470 million with the Union Carbide Corporation. If the disaster had taken place in America the settlement would have been over 20 times that amount. The Indian Government made the settlement secretly, without talking with the local people of Bhopal. Why? Most people think it was because the Government of India did not want to discourage other multi-national companies from setting up in India.


On average a family is given for a gas related death Rs93,000 ($3,000). In comparison, the relatives of the persons who died in the Air India plane crash in June 1984 were paid Rs. 1,000,000 (one million) for each death almost immediately.


On average a Bhopal survivor who files a claim for personal injury receives Rs27,000 ($870). For an ill survivor this will pay for medicines for between 4 and 5 years only. No compensation is paid for any mental health problems.


No claim was resolved before 1992. Over half the claims are unsettled, and eighteen years later, many of the people making claims will be dead.


What the Government spent

From 1986 to 1993, Rs.32 crores (US$ 10.7 million) was spent on environmental “cleaning up”: These were government programmes like resurfacing of roads, planting of trees and construction of drains, street lighting, building of public toilets at bus terminals and railway stations and the import of huge mechanized garbage collectors.

Only two programmes benefited the shanty towns where most of the severely affected people lived.


5. Words and phrases
admitted it was responsible
agreed to a settlement
files a claim

6. The Bhopal Law case

A group of victims and civilians fighting for victims rights has brought a case to the High Courts of India. They want Union Carbide to take responsibility for the continuing physical and mental suffering of the Bhopal survivors and provide medical information and necessary services for their long term medical care. They want Union Carbide to take responsibility for the survivors who are too sick to do their usual jobs and to provide for their economic and social rehabilitation. They want Union Carbide’s accused officials to present themselves in the Bhopal District Court where criminal proceedings are pending against them.

The case against Union Carbide

Immediately after the tragedy, Warren Anderson, the Chairman of Union Carbide from 1980 to 1986, was charged by the Government of India with causing death by negligence. He was arrested on December 7, 1984, and almost immediately released on bail. He has refused to appear in court and for 18 years continues to live in America in his luxurious house. The Government of India could demand that he be extradited from America for trial in India but the Government does not. Union Carbide chose to store and produce MIC, a most dangerous chemical, in an area where nearly 120,000 people were living within 2 kms. of the factory. None of the people were told about the hazardous nature of the chemicals.
In order to save money, Union Carbide had cut back on safety measures. It was known that the refrigeration system had been switched off to save the cost of freon gas. For the last 18 years, survivors have wondered just how much the company must have been saving, to make it worth risking the lives of an entire Indian city. Now we know. The figure was $37.68 per day.


Union Carbide, from the start, withheld vital information, especially medical information, which could have saved thousands of peoples lives.

Union Carbide continues to poison. Hazardous chemicals dumped within and outside the factory till 1984 have contaminated  the soil, ground water and community wells in the area. In 1991, chemicals including those likely to cause damage to the lungs, kidneys and livers and two chemicals that cause cancer, were found in the soil and ground water.


6. Words and phrases

take responsibility
death by negligence
released on bail
appear in court
withheld vital information

  7. Feeding the people:
by repelling and not killing

O r g a n i c   f a r m i n g

The Green revolution was introduced in India by Bharat Ratna Shri.C.Subramaniam and eminent scientist Dr.M.S.Swaminathan . Its intention was to eliminate hunger and make India self-sufficient in food production. In order to increase crop yields, chemical fertilizers like urea, diammonium phosphate (DAP), potash etc were introduced to the Indian farmer, along with pesticides like malathion, benzene hexa chloride (BHC) and of course SEVIN.

But the increase in use of these chemical pesticides and fertilizers lead to the pollution of ground water, which affected the health of people and animals. Not only that but they decreased diversity of soil fauna and predators which fed on pests, and over time there was increase in pest resistance to pesticides. (pests did got used to the pesticide and were not killed by it)

Many states in India are now introducing ‘sustainable agriculture for rural development’. Organic farming is one of the ways to keep up sustainable agriculture.
Organic farming uses bio fertilizers for soil fertility.
For example Azospirillum and azetobacter which are nitrogen fixing microbes. Phosphobacteria which makes phosphate available to plants. Vernicompost which is the compost made using earthworms.

Organic farming uses botanical pesticides and integrated pest management for controlling pest attack.  These pesticides do not kill but they repel. For example Turmeric rhizome extract ; Ginger rhizome  extract; ginger, garlic and green  chilli extract;  Tulasi leaf extract; Custard apple, neem, red chilli extract; Papaya leaf extract; Neem kernel extract; Tobacco extract. Some of the pests controlled are caterpillars, aphids, fruit borers, shoot borers, leaf miners, leaf rollers and hoppers.

By Dr.Jagan Mohan Reddy

December 2002

7. Words and phrases

self-sufficient in food production
decreased diversity
soil fauna and preditors
pest resistance
sustainable agriculture