Activists mount global challenge to Dow

PRESS RELEASE, 16/01/04: More than 25 representatives from various organisations, including 11 international delegates from USA and South Africa, met in Bhopal from January 14-16, 2004 to devise collective strategies to fight for justice in Bhopal and hold Dow Chemical accountable for its toxic legacies around the world. Corporate accountability activists and global supporters of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal announced plans to mobilize public pressure against Dow Chemical in the lead-up to and following the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. The organisations resolved to support the demands of Bhopal survivors for disbursement of compensation funds to survivors, provision of drinking water to the bastis affected by contaminated water, setting up of livelihood generation schemes and pinning legal liability on Dow Chemical for Bhopal.

“This is just the beginning of a globally coordinated fight to expose the toxic skeletons in Dow Chemical’s closet and make the company address its pending liabilities among the millions of people poisoned by Dow’s factories, products or its subsidiaries like Union Carbide,” said Satinath Sarangi of the ICJB.

Dow Chemical has alienated communities worldwide, including in the neighborhood of its headquarters in Midland, Michigan. Residents of Saginaw County, Michigan, who live in the dioxin-contaminated floodplains downriver of Dow’s headquarters in Midland have filed suit against Dow demanding compensation for devaluation in land value because of pollution. Dow’s neighboring communities are demanding that Dow should clean up the 55-mile stretch of polluted river, and initiate comprehensive environmental and health monitoring and rehabilitation.

“Dow has poisoned its own nest. As in Bhopal, where the company denies its liabilities and even the existence of a criminal case against Union Carbide, Dow has the dubious distinction of being a consistent liar even here in Michigan,” said Michelle Hurd-Riddick of the Lone Tree Council, a community environmental group from Saginaw City, Michigan (see this DOC1). Dow has mounted a massive PR effort in Michigan to understate the dangers of dioxins and evade liabilities for clean-up and compensation for threatening the health of communities living in the contaminated area. “Grassroots globalisation is the appropriate challenge to the global reach of Dow Chemical’s poisons, and we’re here to lend and take solidarity from the struggles of the people in Bhopal, Vietnam and other Dow-affected communities.”

On January 10, 2004, Vietnamese people affected by Agent Orange – a dioxin-contaminated herbicide used in the chemical warfare waged by the US in Vietnam in 1965-73 – came together as Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange. Like in Bhopal, a wide range of disabilities and ailments are being found in children born to Agent Orange-exposed people. Hundreds of thousands of children born to exposed parents are also reportedly affected. The Agent Orange Victims Association has expressed interest in joining forces with the global struggle to hold corporations accountable.

In a 2003 study titled “Second National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals,” the US Center for Disease Control confirmed the presence of toxic chemicals manufactured by Dow in the blood and urine of all the American individuals that were tested as part of the study. “In a sense, people around the world are all united in Dow Chemical’s web of poisons. This is a form of trespass – a chemical trespass into our bodies – and numerous NGOs in the US and Europe are fighting for laws to prevent the manufacture of such deadly chemicals and to hold manufacturers like Dow liable for contamination and injury caused by their products,” said Skip Spitzer of Pesticide Action Network North America.

The global solidarity group and 170 Bhopal survivors, including a cultural troupe, will attend the World Social Forum, Mumbai Resistance and other gatherings in Mumbai from 17-21 January, 2004.

Besides representatives of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sanghatan, and the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, the meeting was attended by the following: Tracey Easthope, Ecology Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan Jay Feldman, Beyond Pesticides, Washington, D.C. Gary Cohen, Environmental Health Fund, Boston, USA Skip Spitzer, Pesticide Action Network North America, California, USA Michelle Hurd-Riddick, Lone Tree Council, Saginaw, Michigan Bobby Peek, groundWork, Durban, South Africa Ryan Bodanyi, International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, USA Maude Dorr, photographer, USA Zeina el-Haj, Greenpeace International, Amsterdam, the Netherlands Ward Morehouse, Council for International and Public Affairs, New York, USA Vinuta Gopal, Greenpeace India, Bangalore, India Shailendra Yashwant, Greenpeace India, Bangalore, India Nityanand Jayaraman, Dow Accountability Campaign, Chennai Anuradha Saibaba, The Other Media, New Delhi Rachna Dhingra, International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, Bhopal Rasheeda Bi, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh Champa Devi Shukla, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh Satinath Sarangi, Bhopal Group for Information and Action Shahid Noor, Bhopal survivor

For more information, contact:
Rasheeda Bi (cell) +91 755 3132298 or +91 755 2743157


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