AFP: Bhopal victims protest against Dow

Bhopal victims protest against Dow

NEW DELHI — Indian survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster on Thursday protested outside the offices of the US company blamed for the toxic leak ahead of the 25th anniversary of the notorious accident.

Around 200 protesters gathered in front of the Dow Chemical building in a suburb of New Delhi, shouting slogans and waving placards demanding the firm pay for years of contamination and health problems.

Thousands were killed instantly when gas leaked at a plant in Bhopal overnight on December 2-3, 1984 and tens of thousands have been killed since due to contamination, making it the world’s worst industrial accident.

“We want justice because Dow has yet to clean up the site and compensate us for years of suffering,” Hazra Bi, one of the protest leaders, told AFP by telephone.

Demonstrators wearing black headbands also burned an effigy representing Dow Chemical.

Up to 10,000 people died over three days when a storage tank at a pesticide plant run by US group Union Carbide — purchased by Dow Chemical in 1999 — leaked over 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate gas, according to the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research.

An estimated 25,000 people have died from years of exposure to toxic waste dumped around the factory, rights groups say, and about 100,000 are chronically sick from poisoned groundwater and soil in the slums surrounding the plant.

Many of the protestors were children born with congenital defects after their parents were exposed to the gas or drank contaminated water.

“Now that the second generation of survivors have also joined the struggle things will only go worse for Dow,” said Bi.

The company is under pressure to clean up the abandoned plant but it insists all liabilities regarding the disaster were settled when Union Carbide concluded a 470-million-dollar compensation settlement with New Delhi in 1989.

Victims say the compensation money they have received over the years — between 1,000 and 2,000 dollars for most — is not enough to pay for long-term medical treatment and are pressing for more legal action against Dow.

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