Category Archives: ICJB Press Releases, Statements, Letters

All press releases, statements, and open letters released by ICJB. Posts are tagged with main topic of release, such as “legal,” “medical,” or “anniversary”

While politicians posture, people die

For more than 20,000 people who suffered terrible injuries on the night of poison two decades ago, recent Supreme Court decisions about clean water and distribution of compensation monies come too late. Those twenty thousand are the dead. In their case neither was justice done, nor any humanity shown. The company, whose actions by any civilised standard are beneath contempt, is scarcely less callous in its treatment of the victims than successive waves of Indian politicians in central and state governments. The Supreme Court issues orders, the politicians ignore them. Hence the clean water demo of two days ago that brought Bhopal to a halt.

Today, there is more news from the Supreme Court – issues regarding distribution of compensation money are likely soon to be resolved. But local BJP politicians, led by Chief Minister Gaur, who earlier today pledged to make Madhya Pradesh a “corruption-free” zone, are asking the Court to distribute the money to the whole city, rather than just to those injured for whom it was intended and to whom it has been for so many years denied. In the unlikely event that such a petition is granted, it would be the first instance of Supreme Court-funded voter bribery.

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Bhopal Group for Information and Action
Bhopal ki Aawaaz

October 1, 2004
Press Statement

Addressing a press conference today, leaders of four organizations active on the issues of the December1984 Union Carbide disaster informed victims of the disaster that the Supreme Court of India is most likely to resolve all pending issues regarding the distribution of balance of compensation very soon. The leaders stated that at the hearing in the Supreme Court today, the judges have clearly reiterated that the balance of compensation money can only go to individual victims of the disaster.

The matters that were taken up by the Supreme Court in today’s hearing were the submission made by the Welfare Commissioner, Bhopal Gas Victims with regard to the mode of distribution of the balance of compensation. Representing petitioners Rashida Bee, Champa Devi Shukla and other victims, Advocate Mr. S Muralidhar argued for fair, simple and speedy distribution of the compensation amount. According to Mr. Muralidhar the court would like to hear the case at length with a view to resolving all questions at the next hearing of Supreme Court on October 26, 2004.

Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla from the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh who initiated the move for distribution of balance of compensation in March 2003 said that five applications have been filed in the matter by various agencies. The parties that have filed these applications are: Union of India, State of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust, Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] and Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan [BGPMUS]. However, the Supreme Court has not issued any notice on these applications despite plea by respective lawyers. The Court will decide whether or not to entertain them at the next hearing on 26th October.

The application by the Union of India has sought clarification on the implementation of the July 19, 2004 decision of the Supreme Court regarding compensation distribution. The application by the State of Madhya Pradesh has sought Rs. 600 Crores from the balance of compensation fund for long-term medical care and economic and environmental rehabilitation. The application by the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust has sought release of the balance moneys out of the sale of the attached shares and for further funds for carrying out its obligations to provide medical relief to gas victims beyond 2005.

The petition filed by the Madhya Pradesh unit of the BJP has sought the inclusion of the residents of the 20 unaffected wards among the recipients of the balance of compensation fund. The Petition filed jointly by the BGPMUS and the Bhopal Gas Peedit Sangharsh Sahayog Samiti has called for a re-examination of the inadequacies of the Bhopal settlement of 1989.

Rashida Bi, Champa Devi Shukla, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Syed M Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Shahid Noor, Bhopal ki Aawaaz
Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra, Bhopal Group for Information and Action

Contact :
House No. 12, Gali No. 2, Near Naseer Masjid, Bag Umrao Dulha, Bhopal Tel: 3132298
B-2 / 302, Sheetal Nagar, Berasia Road, Bhopal. Tel: 9826167369
For more information please visit www.bhopal.net

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Pallone slams Dow in Congress

Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr.
Extension of Remarks
“Bhopal Resolution”
September 29, 2004 

Mr. Speaker, I introduced a resolution today in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the Union Carbide Corporation gas leak that took place in Bhopal, India in December 2004.  This 1984 Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster is widely regarded as the worst peacetime environmental catastrophe in world history, and this important resolution expresses the commitment of the United States Congress to work with the Government of India and others to ensure that Union Carbide provides environmental and medical rehabilitation in Bhopal and is held responsible for its actions.

On the night of December 2, 1984, 27 tons of poisonous gas including methyl isocyanate leaked from a storage tank at the Union Carbide Corporation’s pesticide plant in Bhopal and quickly spread to the surrounding residential areas.  Official estimates indicate a death toll of 3,000 lives in the aftermath of the disaster, with unofficial estimates putting the toll much higher at 8,000.  To date, the death toll has climbed to more than 20,000 lives.

Although it is now 20 years since the disaster, approximately 10-30 people continue to die every month in Bhopal from toxic exposure and 150,000 people continue to suffer long-term health consequences from the disaster.  The effects of the toxic gases also appear to be harming the next generation, as more overwhelming evidence is surfacing that points to higher incidence of health effects and birth-defects among children born to gas-affected people.

A host of international organizations and independent investigators have concluded that Union Carbide’s inadequate technology, double standards in safety and emergency-preparedness compounded by a reckless cost-cutting drive at the plant were the principal causes of the disaster.

Based on these investigations and other evidence, the authorities in India brought criminal charges against Union Carbide, its Indian subsidiary as well as local managers in 1987 for criminal negligence and reckless indifference leading to death.

In 1989, Union Carbide negotiated a settlement of $470 million with the Indian government that was based on inaccurate statistics about the scale and magnitude of the disaster in addition to being widely condemned by the media and responsible jurists in India as insufficient, even when compared to compensation awards provided for under Indian law. The Supreme Court of India in its judicial review of the settlement in October 1991 held that the criminal charges could not be overturned or dismissed based on the civil settlement and directed that the criminal prosecution against Union Carbide and the Indian accused must proceed in the courts of India.

When Union Carbide was served with a summons in the criminal case by the Bhopal District Court in 1992, and a notice to appear for trial was published in the Washington Post, Union Carbide’s spokesmen responded with a public statement that the company was not subject to the jurisdiction of India’s courts in disregard of universally accepted international law regarding criminal jurisdiction acknowledged by both the United States and India.  Based on its refusal to appear to face criminal charges against it, the Bhopal District Court issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Union Carbide, ordered that its remaining properties in India be attached to secure its appearance and declared that the company was a “proclaimed absconder” or fugitive from justice.

Union Carbide has recently become a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Corporation, which made the decision to acquire the company with full knowledge, according to its own public statements, of the criminal charges pending against it and Union Carbide’s status as an absconder or fugitive from justice.  Despite repeated public requests and protests around the world, Dow
Chemical has refused to make its new subsidiary appear before the Bhopal District Court to face the criminal charges pending against it for the disaster.

Like Union Carbide before it, Dow Chemical has, to date, continued to refuse to release all scientific research on the leaked gas, claiming that this information constitutes a commercial  “trade secret”.

Like Union Carbide before it, Dow Chemical has also continued to refuse to release all of its own medical research on the toxicology of the leaked chemicals and gases to date.  The lack of information on the gas has not only hindered the study of the long-term health and medical effects of exposure, but has left doctors with few options besides symptomatic treatment of the hundreds of thousands of gas-affected individuals and children.

The devastating health effects of the gas, the birth defects of their children and inability to work because of illness have forced many Bhopali families in desperate need of medical help into insurmountable debt.

Since 1999, at least three independent environmental surveys, including one conducted by state authorities in India, have shown that the former Union Carbide plant has badly polluted the soil and groundwater aquifer beneath it resulting in severe contamination of the drinking water supply of as many as 20,000 people living in residential colonies near the plant. One study found the presence of a large number of highly toxic pollutants in drinking water samples tested by the University of Exeter in the U.K. that were matched with chemicals found in soil samples from the Bhopal plant, including one carcinogenic chemical whose presence in the drinking water exceeded by 1,705
times the maximum limit allowed by the World Health Organization.

Another environmental survey was able to trace chemicals from the former Union Carbide plant in the breast milk of mothers living in the residential areas in the vicinity of the badly polluted site, which continues to leach pollutants into the groundwater aquifer to date. The land for the plant was leased from the State of Madhya Pradesh in India which stipulated that, upon termination, the land would be returned to the State in the condition that it was first leased and suitable for the use prescribed by the zoning regulations.  The state discovered that clean-up of the site until 1998 had been insufficient leaving thousands of metric tons of toxic wastes, chemical by-products, effluents, and other hazardous materials both above-ground on the premises of the factory and below ground in burial pits and landfills, all of which posed a grave threat to the surrounding population.

At least 10 residential areas in the vicinity of the former Union Carbide plant were found to have severely polluted drinking water according to these environmental studies and no substantive effort has been undertaken for environmental remediation of the area leaving water that has high levels of
mercury, dichlorobenzenes, chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, and other pollutants, toxins, and heavy metals. Soil samples from the area have found abnormal amounts of lead, nickel, copper, chromium, hexachlorocyclohexane, and chlorobenzenes.  Tainted water and the generally toxic living environments have lead to premature cancer, deformities, chromosomal aberrations, and other
disorders for Bhopali children.

There is a “polluter pays” principle enshrined in the domestic laws of both India and the United States as well as both domestic and international law which states that the polluter rather than the public agencies or taxpayers should be held responsible for its environmental pollution in its entirety.

International trade and ethical practices compel Dow Chemical to treat this matter very seriously and ensure that equitable treatment be afforded to the victims and their progeny.

Mr. Speaker, India is the largest democratic country in the world and enjoys a close and mutual friendship with the United States based on common values and common interests, and as a result, our countries should come together to recognize the gravity of the Bhopal disaster and the ongoing environmental problems in Bhopal caused by Union Carbide’s policies and practices.

I encourage my colleagues in the U.S. Congress to support this resolution and commit to working together with the Indian government, Dow Chemical Corporation, and the victims to ensure that Union Carbide provides complete medical, social, and economic rehabilitation to the victims of the disaster.  In addition, we should work together to ensure that Union Carbide undertakes a complete environmental remediation that restores the badly polluted plant site affected by this disaster to a habitable condition and fully remediates the drinking water supply of affected residential communities.  Lastly, we need to ensure that Union Carbide appears before the Bhopal District Court for prosecution on the criminal charges pending against it there, in accordance with principles of international law regarding criminal jurisdiction accepted by the world community including India and the United States.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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Bhopal roads blocked for clean water

Tired of waiting for the government of Madhya Pradesh to obey a five-month-old Supreme Court order to supply clean water to contaminated areas, communities bearing the brunt of Carbide’s water poisoning today forced the issue with a blockade of two of Bhopal’s main roads. The action follows recent meetings with Babulal Gaur, then Minister for Gas Relief but now Chief Minister, and a 2,000 strong demonstration outside the Chief Minister’s residence in July that have not yet generated action from pitiless local officials. Friends in Bhopal explain that the MP government is blatantly lying to the Supreme Court over the amount of clean water being piped into communities that are otherwise forced to drink cancer causing chemicals. More direct actions are planned if this criminal neglect doesn’t end immediately.

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Bhopal Group for Information and Action
Bhopal ki Awaz

September 28, 2004 press statement

Leaders of four organizations active on the issues of the December ’84 Union Carbide disaster today announced that they would block traffic [“Chakka Jaam”] tomorrow on September 29, calling for immediate laying down of pipe lines for safe drinking water to the residents of the communities affected by ground water contamination. Two of the main roads entering the city would be blocked by residents of the 14 communities in the vicinity of Union Carbide’s factory and hazardous landfill the two sources of the contamination.

It has been almost five months since the Supreme Court of India directed the State Government to supply safe drinking water to the affected communities. Mrs. Rashida Bee, President, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh alleged that the state government is brazenly lying to the Supreme Court on this matter and is forcing people to consume water laced with cancer causing chemicals. She said that abdominal pain, giddiness, anemia, growth retardation among children, birth defects, skin disorders are commonly occurring health consequences of contaminated water among the 20,000 residents who are forced to use water from local hand pumps.

Shahid Noor of Bhopal ki Awaz pointed out that the affidavit submitted in response to the May 7, 2004 directive of the Supreme Court contains deliberate misinformation on the supply of water. While the government has claimed to be supplying 360, 000 litres of water per day through tankers and pipeline, according to Mr. Noor, the actual supply of water was little over 42, 000 litres per day in August dropping from 89, 000 litres in July this year.

Mr. Syed M Irfan, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, said that the blocking of road traffic will be the first of a series of direct action by the people of the affected communities. Mothers concerned and angry about the damaging effect of the poisons known to be present in their breast milk on their babies would be at the front line of these actions, he said.

Rashida Bi, Champa Devi Shukla
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh

Syed M Irfan,
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha

Shahid Noor
Bhopal ki Awaz

Satinath Sarangi, Rachna Dhingra,
Bhopal Group for Information and Action

Contact :
House No. 12, Gali No. 2, Near Naseer Masjid, Bag Umrao Dulha, Bhopal Tel: 3132298
B-2 / 302, Sheetal Nagar, Berasia Road, Bhopal. Tel: 9826167369

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Solar lanterns light up lives of young survivors

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) today launched Project Chirag, an income-generation initiative for young survivors of the world’s worst industrial disaster. The ICJB has decided on having “hope” and “rebuilding” as the key themes for the 20th anniversary of the gas disaster and this is the first such initiative. The project will be carried out by Bhopal ki Aawaaz, an organization of people orphaned by the disaster and a constituent of ICJB.

A first in Bhopal, this project is also the first initiative of the Solar Generation, a youth campaign launched by Greenpeace India. As part of the project, Bhopal ki Aawaaz has received 30 photovoltaic solar lanterns and its members have received training in using them for income generation. The three members of Bhopal ki Aawaaz currently running the business of lending out solar lanterns to vegetable vendors are Shahid Noor, Sanjay Verma and Sadanand.

The solar lamps are charged during the day and rented out in the evening to vendors in Chhola bazaar for Rs. 8 (£0.10p) for each lamp for 5 hours. Apart from generating Rs 900 (£11) per month for each of the youngsters in the initial phase of the business, this venture will help replace petromax and lead-acid battery lanterns with clean, renewable energy based lanterns. Sunmin, a Chennai-based organisation is already running a similar income-generation project successfully on Chennai beaches


Shahid Noor and colleagues from Bhopal ki Aawaaz at the press conference with solar lanterns

“Our group was formed to give voice to the demands of the orphans of the disaster and income generation is a key demand for us. We are confident that we will be able to run this environment friendly income generation project and some of us will be able to earn some steady income. More importantly, it will give us the wherewithal to continue with our struggle for economic rehabilitation by the government.” said Shahid Noor of Bhopal ki Aawaaz.

According to Vinuta Gopal of Greenpeace-India. “Though the solar lantern project is small compared to the enormity of the problem of joblessness among the survivors, the Chirag project will hopefully make the state and central governments take note of the urgent need for economic rehabilitation.”

Champa Devi Shukla, Secretary of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh and winner of the International Goldman Environmental Prize for 2004, said “We have made plans for several other income generating environment-friendly projects and are currently gathering resources and setting up the infrastructure for their implementation. Hopefully, by December we will have more good news for Bhopal survivors.”

Rashida Bee, Champa Devi Shukla, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh
Shahid Noor, Bhopal ki Aawaaz
Prakash Tripathi, Vinuta Gopal, Greenpeace-India
Syed M Irfan, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha
Rachna Dhingra, Satinath Sarangi, Bhopal Group for Information and Action

Contact:
1. House No. 12, Gali No. 2, Near Naseer Masjid, Bag Umrao Dulha, Bhopal Tel: 3132298, 3132959
2. B-2 / 302, Sheetal Nagar, Berasia Road, Bhopal. Tel : 9826167369

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"Via Hand Delivery" – the text of the Government of India's letter to the US District Court, New York

June 28, 2004

VIA HAND DELIVERY
United States District Judge John F Keenan
United States District Court
Southern District of New York
500 Pearl Street,
New York, New York 100007-1312

Re : Bano et al v. Union Carbide 99 Civ. 11329 [JFK]

TO THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT :

On behalf of the Union of India and as its duly authorized consular representative in the United States of America, we submit this letter in the above, referenced matter to present the official position of the sovereign government of India with regard to environmental remediation of the land and premises formerly occupied by the Union carbide plant in Bhopal, India.

The union of India submits that neither the Madhya Pradesh State Government or its instrumentalities nor the Union of India has any objection to any such relief for environmental remediation of the former Union Carbide plant premises in Bhopal being ordered or directed by a competent

Keenan
The only picture we can find of the Honorable Justice John Keenan
court or tribunal of the United States. Further, the Union of India and the Madhya Pradesh State Government and their respective instrumentalities will cooperate with any such relief as and when issued by the United States District Court. The Union of India will monitor and supervise such environmental remediation including decommissioning of plant and machinery, remediation / disposal of contaminated soil and appropriate disposal of toxic chemicals and wastes on the plant site by Union Carbide in order to ensure that it is undertaken in compliance with the norms parameters laid down by a specific organization of the Government of India, the Central Pollution Control Board, for that purpose.

Union Carbide will also be held responsible for any loss/damages caused to life or property in the process of remediation and disposal. Pursuant to the “polluter pays” principle recognized by both the United States and India, Union Carbide should bear all of the financial burden and cost for the purpose of environmental clean up and remediation. The Union of India and the State Government of Madhya Pradesh shall not bear any financial burden for this purpose.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, nothing in this official statement on behalf of the Union of India may be construed or read, by implication or otherwise, as an intention to submit either the Union of India or the Madhya Pradesh Government to the jurisdiction of the United State Government of Madhya Pradesh are entitled to sovereign immunity under international law and do not waive those immunities by this submission.

In addition, nothing in this submission should be construed, by implication or otherwise, to convey any authority to plaintiff in the above matter to assert or pursue claims on behalf of the Union of India or State Government of Madhya Pradesh nor shall the plaintiffs in the above referenced matter be entitled, by virtue of this submission, to assert or pursue any claims against either the Union of India or the Madhya Pradesh Government in the litigation or before the US District Court.

Finally, it is the official position of the Union of India that the previous settlement of claims concerning the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster between Union Carbide and Union of India has no legal bearing on or relation whatsoever to the environmental contamination issue raised in the case at bar. Nothing in this submission should be construed, by implication or otherwise, as an 8intention to reopen or question the validity of that previous settlement.

Accordingly, the Union of India hereby formally urges the US District Court to order such relief, as required by the US Court of Appeals Second Circuit in this matter.

Respectfully submitted
Consul General of India
Consulate General of India
3 East, 64th Street
New York, New York 10021-7097

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