Akash Mehta, 11, founder, Kids for a Better Future, believes kids can change the world. This year he’s requesting donations towards Sambhavna, a nonprofit that supports people affected by the Bhopal gas leak of 1984 and others that get added each year.
December 3 this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Union Carbide factory leak that claimed thousands of lives that night and has affected more than 500,000 since. According to the CS monitor article by Scott Baldauf a few years ago:
BHOPAL, INDIA – Nearly 20 years after an accident at a Union Carbide chemical plant killed thousands here, there are signs that a second tragedy is in the making. New environmental studies indicate that tons of toxic material dumped at the old plant have now seeped into the groundwater, affecting a new generation of Bhopal citizens.
The Indian government - long criticized for its lax regulation of Union Carbide and reluctance to pursue legal claims - now says it's ready to hold parent company Dow Chemical liable for the ground contamination.
For many, the Bhopal litigation serves as a test case for India's relationship with foreign businesses and investors. But for the victims of Bhopal, the gas tragedy is a matter of justice, compensation, and safety - all of which, they say, has been a long time in coming.
While Union Carbide settled a civil suit in 1989 by agreeing to pay victims a lump sum of $470 million, a criminal trial against the company and its top officials is entering its 15th year, with less than half of the few hundred witnesses having testified. And the compensation process has taken so long that the settlement fund has nearly doubled in value; Officials haven't decided how to dole out nearly $333 million in unplanned interest.
In the meantime, government inaction on water contamination may be affecting untold thousands who were seemingly left untouched by the poisonous gas accident of Dec. 3, 1984.
Read both Union Carbide and Sambhavana's websites regarding battles of legal and moral responsibility, pending justice and tonnes of waste material that remain in the city. According to the website, members of the nonprofit are planning to come to the US to ask Dow, who now owns Union Carbide, to claim ownership of the premises and the locked building.
Below is Akash's appeal letter.
AKASH’S BIRTHDAY APPEAL
Dear Friends and Supporters of KBF:
By now you all know what Kids for a Better Future (KBF) is, I’m sure! (If you don’t, read here: Kids For a Better Future is a non-profit organization based in Brooklyn, New York City. It is run by a small group of kids in NYC, and was founded three years ago by 10 year old (about to be 11!) Akash Viswanath. Mehta (That’s me!), who was seven at the time.)
You probably also know that every year, I do a birthday appeal where I ask for donations to KBF instead of gifts – its that time again!! Can you help this year in my birthday appeal? Here are the details, probably more than you want to read! In case you don’t want to read it all let me summarize it for you.
This year I want to support the Sambavna clinic in Bhopal which is helping to treat victims of the worst industrial accident in history. Like previous years, The Unemployed Philosophers Guild has offered to double any contributions I get from people who have not contributed to my birthday appeal before. This is such a great opportunity and I hope you’ll think about contributing now, especially if you haven’t before!
Continue reading more about their previous fundraisers, the first in 2007 for Women for Afghan Women (WAW) for a girl's school in Herat, Afghanistan, the second in 2008 for Ajedi-Ka, an organization that helps free Congolese child soldiers from the armies in Congo.
Mehta's parents are both familiar faces in the South Asian American community. His mother, Sunita Viswanath is co-founder of Women for Afghan Women and former board member of Sakhi for South Asian Women. His father, Suketu Mehta is the writer whose work on Mumbai has gotten so much attention lately. Even Akash's 13-year-old brother, Gautama is a published writer (see his piece in Forbes.com, "The New Facebook... Blechhhh!"). Another SAJA connection. Krithi Ram-Junnarkar, age 9, the daughter SAJA president Sandeep Junnarkar and dancer Shobana Ram, is a core member of KBF.
You can make donations on KBF and/or post your comments below.
You can contact Akash by e-mailing akasukmeh[at]yahoo.com AND sunitaviswanath[at]yahoo.com.