Bhopal – forgotten?

A number of days ago, on August 20th, the US court for appeals rejected a petition by 15 survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal, India. The plea asked for the removal of hazardous materials the company had left behind and compensation for the those affected by the accident.

While I found many Indian newspapers reporting about this court decision, I couldn’t find any American media outlet mentioning the court appeal. Has Bhopal become an issue far away and irrelevant for the daily concerns of the American people?

That night, on December 3, 1984 a gas leak at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal killed thousands of people immediately and seriously affected the health of another 150 000 for years to come. The people there still bear the physical and emotional scars, as do their children, many of whom have been born with birth defects. Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide in 2001, also acquiring Carbide’s liabilities, but refuses to address its responsibilities in Bhopal.

Although there are many tragedies on people’s minds these days, all of which are cause for great concern – Lebanon, the war in Iraq, new terrorist threats to name but a few, we should not forget those who are still suffering from the effects of a tragedy that happened more than 20 years ago. The fact that the remains of the Union Carbide factory are still killing and poisoning people today should be a reason for outcry, especially here in the US, as Union Carbide was after all an American company.

Our companies and courts need to ensure personal and corporate responsibility. The court’s response to the appeal, “We have already affirmed dismissal of these claims because of impracticality of a court-supervised clean-up project on the land owned by a foreign sovereign.” demonstrates how insufficient the current legal regulations are for Western companies operating abroad. <!– D([“mb”,”

However, one does not even have to look that far afield tonfind examples of corporate irresponsibility. Right here innMassachusetts, there are several cases of people suffering from thenmistakes the industry has made.

For example, in today’s local newspaper, I found two articlesnabout groundwater contamination due to corporate wrongdoing: one wasnabout the W.R. Grace Co. building in Woburn finally being demolished,nafter it had become a symbol for Woburn’s toxic legacy; another one wasnabout a case of contaminated ground water in Ashland, where toxicnvapors from the water pose a health risk to residents 28 years after andye factory had left.n

These stories show that we need to ask for more accountabilitynfrom the chemical industry. Bhopal has been acknowledged as the world’snworst industrial disaster and a symbol for corporate neglect. We neednto learn from what happened in Bhopal and make the legal changesnrequired to protect our environment and our health. However, first ofnall, we need to make sure that the people in Bhopal will finallynreceive the compensation and support they deserve. Dow Chemical is onenof the largest chemical companies in the US. It is up to the peoplenhere to ask them to take responsibility. I hope that Cambridge willntake a first step by passing a city council resolution in support ofnthe survivors in Bhopal (www.cambridge4bhopal.org).

Letnus not forget that those who were on the front pages of the newspapersnacross the world in 1984 are still waiting for justice today – theynwon’t be able to ever forget.n
B. Werner
Cambridge, MAnn”,0] ); //–>

However, one does not even have to look that far afield to find examples of corporate irresponsibility. Right here in Massachusetts, there are several cases of people suffering from the mistakes the industry has made.

For example, in today’s local newspaper, I found two articles about groundwater contamination due to corporate wrongdoing: one was about the W.R. Grace Co. building in Woburn finally being demolished, after it had become a symbol for Woburn’s toxic legacy; another one was about a case of contaminated ground water in Ashland, where toxic vapors from the water pose a health risk to residents 28 years after a dye factory had left.

These stories show that we need to ask for more accountability from the chemical industry. Bhopal has been acknowledged as the world’s worst industrial disaster and a symbol for corporate neglect. We need to learn from what happened in Bhopal and make the legal changes required to protect our environment and our health. However, first of all, we need to make sure that the people in Bhopal will finally receive the compensation and support they deserve. Dow Chemical is one of the largest chemical companies in the US. It is up to the people here to ask them to take responsibility. I hope that Cambridge will take a first step by passing a city council resolution in support of the survivors in Bhopal (www.cambridge4bhopal.org).

Let us not forget that those who were on the front pages of the newspapers across the world in 1984 are still waiting for justice today – they won’t be able to ever forget.

B. Werner
Cambridge, MA

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