Photojournalism / Editorial Photography | Nominee

Alex Masi


Bhopal Second Disaster


Bhopal is not yet at peace.

Three decades after the the '1984 Gas Disaster', numerous families are still trapped within the nightmare that began on a grim, distant night, still searching for the possibility to restore health and dignity to their community.

Half a million people living in the capital of Madhya Pradesh were exposed to the toxic cloud released by the plant, when all safety mechanisms failed to work. Thousands died it its wake.

Since then, in the consciousness of people the world over, Bhopal has been associated with the haunting images of that night and its aftermath, tragic demonstrations of the dangers and failures of unregulated industrialisation and indiscriminate pollution.

Today, Union Carbide's legacy affects the health and lives of those who survived: approximately 100,000 people are chronically ill from the continued effects of the gas leak, while tainted drinking water has caused a sharp increase in birth defects and severe disabilities in children.

Still buried around the abandoned industrial complex, the hazardous waste left behind by Union Carbide has penetrated the underground aquifers, with samples as far as three kilometres from the plant showing dangerous levels of pesticides, organochlorines and heavy metals.

Since the DOW Chemical acquisition of Union Carbide, the American corporation has refused to accept any responsibility.

Alarmingly, while defending itself in court, it was also awarded a decade-long contract as a worldwide sponsor of the Olympic Movement. (2010-2020)

Meanwhile, remarkable things have been happening in Bhopal, as political intransigence left 'the survivors' with no choice but to take control of their own destiny. They organised themselves into groups campaigning for justice and built their own community health programmes.

When visiting Bhopal's affected communities, I strived to portray my subjects with intimacy, meaning and depth. I aspired to present photographs that could convey emotions and stimulate our feelings of compassion and brotherhood, hoping to become a catalyst in the promotion of awareness, solidarity and action for the people of Bhopal: relentless spirits who have set out to win their battle for justice and to find long-lasting peace within their hearts.

Courageous citizens that since 1984 have struggled to hold the culprits accountable and inspire others around the world to raise their voices, stand united and support each other.