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UN Social Justice Day 2014 – Press Statement

Press Statement – February 20, 2014

On the occasion of the United Nations Social Justice Day (February 20th) supporters of the survivors of the Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal today demonstrated at the United Nation’s office in New Delhi asking the UN to provide much needed technical assistance for the survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster. The Bhopal supporters also called upon the UN to terminate its association with Dow Chemical Company, USA in view of its continuing violations of human rights through refusal to carry out toxic clean up in Bhopal. 

The supporters said that it was a matter of serious concern that almost 30 years into disaster in Bhopal, not one of the UN agencies has lived up to its mandate by providing technical and other assistance towards the continuing humanitarian crisis in Bhopal. They said that while the UN has been negligent towards its responsibilities in Bhopal it has actively built its association with the corporation responsible for the ongoing disaster in Bhopal.

The supporters handed over a letter from the Bhopal survivors meant for the Secretary General: In this letter survivors demanded that the United Nations terminate the membership of Dow Chemical, current owner of Union Carbide, in the United Nations Foundation for its ongoing violations of the human rights of the people of Bhopal. They also announced that another group of supporters in the USA also delivered a copy of the letter to the UN Secretary General’s office in New York today.

In their letter the survivors said that different UN agencies could provide vital technical assistance towards medical relief and environmental remediation in Bhopal. However, agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have chosen to remain quiet for the last 30 years.

In their letter to the UN Secretary General, the Bhopal survivors have called for assistance from WHO for developing treatment protocols for exposure induced chronic illnesses. They also asked for technical assistance from UNEP for scientific assessment of the contamination of soil and ground water in and around Union Carbide’s abandoned factory in Bhopal.

The organizations urged the Secretary General to direct the United Nations Human Rights Council to produce a report on the ongoing human rights violations in Bhopal due to the acts of omission and commission by the two US corporations.

Rashida Bi, 

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh 

 94256 88215

Nawab Khan, 

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha

8718035409

Balkrishna Namdeo,

Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha 

9826345423

Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra, 

Bhopal Group for Information and Action 

9826167369

Safreen Khan,

Children Against Dow Carbide

For information on the February 20th action, please contact: 
Brian Mooney 
E-mail: bjm5@nyu.edu
Phone: 212-998-7094

For more information on the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, North America (ICJB-NA), please contact:
Reena Shadaan
E-mail: reena.shadaan@icjb.org
Phone: 416-508-0740

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UN Social Justice Day 2014 – ICJB’s Letter to the United Nations

To,

The Secretary General,
Ban Ki-moon
United Nations Organization
1st Ave. and 46th street
New York, NY 10017 USA

February 20, 2014

Sub: 30th Anniversary Appeal from Survivors of the Union Carbide Disaster in Bhopal, India.

Dear Sir,

On behalf of five organizations of the survivors of the December 1984 Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal, India, we are writing to you for assistance by different UN agencies to help rebuild the city devastated by the world’s worst industrial disaster.

This is the year of the 30th anniversary of the disaster in Bhopal. Hundreds of people are still dying every year from the poisons they inhaled little past midnight of December 3, 1984.  Today in Bhopal close to 150, 000 people are battling chronic illnesses and tens of thousands of children born after the disaster suffer growth and development disorders. Union Carbide continues to withhold medical information on leaked gases as “trade secrets” and the appropriate medical treatment for exposure induced illnesses remain to be available to the chronically ill survivors. 

While Union Carbide was taken over by The Dow Chemical Company in 2001, its pesticide factory lies abandoned in Bhopal. The Indian government’s scientific agency has recently reported toxic chemicals and heavy metals in groundwater as far as 3 kilometres from the factory. These poisons are leaching from recklessly dumped hazardous waste and are endangering the health of 50 thousand neighbourhood residents who have drunk the local groundwater for over two decades. A comprehensive scientific assessment of the depth and spread of Dow Chemical’s contaminants, essential for designing interventions for environmental remediation, remains to be carried out.

Through this letter we urge you to direct different UN agencies to take stock of the ongoing disasters in Bhopal with a view to providing technical assistance in the areas of health care, medical research and environmental assessment. 

In particular we look forward to assistance from WHO in developing effective treatment protocols for disaster related illnesses, from UNEP in scientific assessment of the environmental damage wrought by Union Carbide and now Dow Chemical and from United Nations Human Rights Council for the production of a report on the ongoing human rights violations in Bhopal due to the acts of omission and commission by the two US corporations. 

Further we call upon you to terminate the membership of The Dow Chemical Company, USA in the United Nations Foundation in view of its continuing violation of the human rights of the people of Bhopal through denial of toxic clean up in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory. 

We enclose a brief fact sheet on the current situation in Bhopal and with regard to the US corporations. We will be happy to send you additional information that you may need before taking any decision on these urgent matters.

We hope that the UN will provide much needed assistance to the survivors of Bhopal and drop Dow Chemical as its “Partner” before the disaster enters its fourth decade this December.

Thanking you.

Yours sincerely,

Rashida Bi, 

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh 

 94256 88215

Nawab Khan, 

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha

8718035409

Balkrishna Namdeo,

Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha 

9826345423

Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra, 

Bhopal Group for Information and Action 

9826167369

Safreen Khan,

Children Against Dow Carbide

 Contact : c/o 44, Sant Kanwar Ram Nagar, Berasia Road, Bhopal 462038;                
Email: justiceinbhopalnow@gmail.com

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10 February 2014 – Dow sues ICJB activists in India

In early February, Dow Chemical filed its fourth lawsuit against activists in India seeking justice for  victims of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster. Read more in Digital Journal’s article, where Reena Shadaan of ICJB, North America, is interviewed:
“Imagine, the company that gave us Napalm and Agent Orange is suing activists who have non-violently struggled for a clean environment, clean water, healthcare, social and economic rehabilitation, proper compensation and other basic rights.” Read More.

 

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17 January 2014 – Statement of Solidarity

The West Virginia Chemical Spill: 
Solidarity from the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, North America (ICJB-NA) expresses solidarity with the communities of West Virginia that are facing a toxic nightmare. The Freedom Industries chemical spill and the Union Carbide Corporation’s (UCC) chemical leak in Bhopal, India share many similarities, namely: (1) Unsafe design; (2) Unsafe location; (3) Failure to report to official bodies; (4) Denial of the leak by the Corporation immediately after the incident; (5) Inadequate information available on the leaked chemical and on an appropriate response, and; (6) Government’s negligence in regulation.

It will soon be thirty years since the people of Bhopal, India were exposed to 40 tons of the highly toxic, methyl isocyanate (MIC) due to the hazardous design/cost-cutting decisions of UCC, now owned by the Dow Chemical Company. As we approach the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster, we wish to express solidarity with your struggle and reiterate our vision –“No More Bhopals”. We demand an end to chemical leaks and spills that pose threats to the safety of our environment and health, including the health of future generations.

The contamination of our water – the most precious resource for human life – is a heinous crime. Like you, Bhopalis have faced widespread groundwater contamination since 1981, even predating the gas disaster of 1984. Additionally, the site of the disaster has yet to be cleaned up, resulting in further soil and groundwater contamination. Most of the affected communities have been forced to rely on this water containing dangerously high levels of mercury, heavy metals and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). This has led to a host of health problems, including headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, abdominal pain, as well as reproductive health problems, including the suppression of lactation, birth defects and developmental disabilities. This is in addition to the chronic health problems already experienced by survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster, which include sickness in the respiratory, ocular, neurological, neuromuscular, and gynecological systems. Survivor groups led a relentless campaign for years and in 2012, the state government of Madhya Pradesh constructed pipelines to supply clean water to the affected communities.

Toxic facilities are routinely situated in areas populated by the poor, working-class and/or racial minorities and, left to self-regulate, chemical industries will continue to pose a threat to the lives and environments of such communities. UCC’s Bhopal plant was situated alarmingly close to several slum communities, populated by some of the most marginalized sections of Indian society. The same rings true in North America. The Navajo nation faces the depletion of their water resources and pollution at the hands of the Peabody Western Coal Company. This has led to an increase in respiratory health issues, which first became apparent in the late 1960s, but like Bhopal, the struggle continues decades later. In Canada, the Anishinaabe nation lives on the Aamjiwnaang reservation in “Chemical Valley,” an area that is home to 40% of Canada’s chemical industry. A 2005 community-based study found that of 132 women surveyed, 39% had at least one stillbirth or miscarriage. These are a few cases in a wider problem of toxic facilities being routinely situated in areas populated by indigenous communities, African-American communities, working-class white communities and other marginalized communities.

Governments must enact regulation that will ensure the safety of communities near and workers within toxic facilities, and ensure that polluting facilities are held responsible. In effect, we demand that the precautionary principle, the community’s right to know, and the polluter pays principle guide all regulation related to chemical facilities.

In Solidarity,

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, North America

Contact:

Reena Shadaan (reena.shadaan@icjb.org) / Renu Pariyadath (renu.pariyadath@gmail.com)

International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, North America (ICJB-NA)

icjb.us.ab@gmail.com

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Open Letter to Dow’s new green washing partner

Mr. Ranjan Biswas, Managing Director, Trailblazers |  February 1st, 2014

We write to express our disappointment at Trailblazers’ collaboration with The Dow Chemical Company on the ‘Multiply the Message’ campaign. In a video released this week [1], Dow seeks to use the campaign to project itself as a company committed to sustainability and to “[leaving] this planet in a better shape for the younger generation”. Unfortunately, this is simply not true. We appreciate the good work that Trailblazers does in spreading environmental consciousness and in motivating teachers and students to take action, but our concern is that carrying out this work in partnership with Dow multiplies a false and deeply damaging message.

Dow Chemical is the current owner of the Union Carbide Corporation, the company responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster. On the night of December 2nd, 1984, the lack of adequate safety mechanisms at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal led to the leakage of 40 metric tons of toxic MIC gas, killing 8,000 people within the next 72 hours. Around 25,000 have died to date and more than 500,000 continue to suffer from chronic medical conditions caused by exposure to the gas and the ongoing toxic contamination. The toxins dumped by Union Carbide in the factory grounds have never been cleaned up and, to this day, continue to poison Bhopal’s groundwater.

Despite its acquisition of Union Carbide’s assets and liabilities, Dow Chemical refuses to acknowledge any responsibility for the ongoing disaster in Bhopal. The company refuses to appear for trial in India, ignoring court summons to face charges of criminal negligence. It refuses to clean up the contaminated site, in violation of the internationally recognised principle of ‘Polluter Pays’. Even today, 30 years after the gas leak, a child born in Bhopal is seven times more likely to be born with a congenital birth defect than anywhere else in India [2].

In this context, Dow’s glossy statement of its “sustainability goals” is farcical; a cruel attempt to “greenwash” its image and to suppress the voice of a community that continues to fight for justice, in the face of three generations of suffering. Despite its tenet of “solutionism… that science and humanity can solve everything”, in the case of Bhopal, Dow seems to have abandoned humanity, legality [3] and common decency altogether. Thousands of voices – from all across India, to the US Congress [4] and the London Assembly [5] – have been raised against this.

Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of (otherwise valuable) programmes such as ‘Multiply the Message’ is in large part an attempt to divert attention from the company’s disturbing environmental record in Bhopal and elsewhere. Assisting Dow in doing this is highly damaging to Trailblazers’ credibility. Although taking individual responsibility for the environment is important, the message is incomplete without recognition of the damage that is done when individuals and corporations abdicate this responsibility. We urge Trailblazers to clarify where it stands and end its association with The Dow Chemical Company. The teachers and students Trailblazers works with, and the people of Bhopal, deserve better.

 

[1] ‘Multiply the Message’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qltPxN40Zds

[2] ‘New Abnormalities Seen in Third Generations of Bhopal Children’: http://www.bhopal.org/2013/03/new-abnormalities-seen-in-third-generations-of-bhopal-children

[3] In a 2012 letter to the Government of India, survivors of the disaster outlined the legal case against Dow Chemical: http://www.aid-austin.org/sites/default/files/u4/Letter_Dow_Liabilities_2012.pdf

[4] Letter from members of US Congress to Dow Chemical, written after meeting with survivors in 2006: https://www.bhopal.net/delhi-marchers/docs/bhopal.letter.pdf

[5] “London 2012 Olympics: Dow Chemical partnership has ‘damaged reputation of London Games”: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/news/9392569/London-2012-Olympics-Dow-Chemical-partnership-has-damaged-reputation-of-London-Games.html

Continue reading Open Letter to Dow’s new green washing partner

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