The LowDOWn – February 2011

Bhopal LowDOWn – February 2011

In this issue:

   1. Survivors protest unethical drug trials on gas victims
   2. Supreme Court admits curative petition on enhanced compensation 
   3. Aquatech dissociates with Dow after Bhopalis protest
   4. Max Carlson’s Bhopali wins “Best Documentary” at Slamdance
   5. Dow in the news: Greenwashing its image – Anna University dumps Dow – Ontario's history with Agent Orange
   6. Longtime activist Gary Cohen profiled in Miller-McCune Magazine
Recent Requests to Information have confirmed that the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Survivors protest at BMHRCCentre (BMHRC) conducted 7 unethical pharmaceutical trials on gas victims, only one of which was monitored by the Drug Controller General of India.  The trials have resulted in the deaths of at least 10 survivors.  On February 24, survivors and activists marched to BMHRC and demanded the suspension of senior consultants, who received substantial sums of money from the drug companies.  Protestors also decried the preferential treatment given to wealthy private patients over gas victims, who the hospital was originally created for.  Read more here.
On February 28, the India's Supreme Court accepted the Government of India's petition for enhanced compensation in the 1989 out-of-court settlement, which was from Union Carbide for $470 million.  While the submission does indicate recognition of the settlement's inadequacy, the government's curative petition is not without its problems; death toll figures are grossly underestimated, medical ailments were wrongly-assessed, and children born to gas-affected parents are not considered for compensation.  Read ICJB's response to the curative petition here.
During the Aquatech India trade exhibition in Mumbai from March 2-4, Dow Chemical was forced to withdraw when 70 Bhopalis protested its involvement.  As activist Nawab Khan said at a press conference, "Dow need not pour money into such conferences to sell its water technologies, instead it should just accept the liability of Bhopal, clean up the toxic wastes and contaminated groundwater. It would get the clean image it is so looking forward to."  Read the full story and see more pictures here.
Bhopali, the riveting new documentary on the 1984 disaster by Max Carlson, won both the Grand Jury and the Audience awards for "Best Documentary" at Slamdance Film Festival in late January.  A glowing review from Variety read, "Carlson, a Los Angeles filmmaker, skillfully interweaves a cogent account of the disaster and the ongoing legal battles it spawned with intimate, often heart-wrenching stories of the disaster's living victims."  Read an interview with the filmmaker here, or watch the trailer.
5.  Dow in the news: Greenwashing its image – Anna University dumps Dow – Ontario's history with Agent Orange
  •  In early February, Dow Chemical announced its $10 million investment in the Nature Conservancy to "apply scientific knowledge and experience to examine how Dow's operations rely on and affect nature." Ironically, the corporation still holds responsibility for toxic hotspots worldwide, from dioxin poisoning in Michigan, to the abandoned Bhopal plant.  If Dow is actually concerned with a greener future, it would start by cleaning up its past. 
  • Last year when Chennai's Anna University accepted sponsorship from Dow Chemical for their prestigious Kurukshetra Techfest, hundreds of Bhopal supporters from around the world petitioned and protested the partnership.  In preparation for the festival, which took place from February 2-5, survivor groups warned coordinators that "associating with Dow Chemical is a hugely unpopular move that will bring upon worldwide condemnation."  Fortunately, event coordinators confirmed they did not accept Dow sponsorship for Kurukshetra again this year.
  • Recent investigations by the Toronto Star have revealed that power company Ontario Hydro sprayed massive quantities of an infamous Dow product, Agent Orange, to clear brush for power lines.  Agent Orange is a highly toxic dioxin compound, known to cause serious health issues including cancers, birth defects, and skin diseases.  The spraying was done "with no regard for creeks and streams or residents and wildlife.”  Read the full story here.

6.  Longtime Bhopal activist Gary Cohen profiled in Miller-McCune MagazineGary Cohen, photo from Miller McCune

Gary Cohen of Boston, Massachusetts, founder of Healthcare Without Harm, has dedicated much of his life to environmental health and chemical industry reform.  Miller-McCune Magazine has profiled Cohen's work, including a section on Bhopal: "'When Bhopal happened, I thought this is the Hiroshima of the chemical industry. This is what it looks like,' Cohen says. Cohen would go on to use Bhopal as a rallying cry to push for the passage of a U.S. law, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, requiring companies operating in American communities to report what chemicals they use and to maintain emergency plans."  Read the full article here.

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