Category Archives: The LowDOWn Newsletter

The Bhopal LowDOWn is our monthly newsletter. It includes media coverage, past events, ongoing events, and upcoming events.

The LowDOWn is your way to stay connected to the campaign! If you have something to submit, please contact us by the end of the month.

The LowDOWn – Spring 2011

In this issue:

  1. Supreme Court decision: ‘another black day for justice’ in Bhopal
  2. In Bhopal, environmental contamination clean-up committee marred by Dow insiders’ presence
  3. Survivor’s U.S. tour in early spring a success
  4. Divine Strings: Boston’s soulful benefit concert for Bhopal
  5. Annual conference of Association for India’s Development: celebration and reflection on 20 years of AID
  6. A new chapter for ICJB-North America

1. Supreme Court Decision: ‘Another Black Day for Justice’ in BhopalBhopalis protest the Court's decision
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of India dismissed the Indian Government’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) appeal for heightened punishment of eight Union Carbide employees charged with causing death due to negligence as part of the 1984 disaster. The eight men were convicted last year by a Bhopal court, which handed down a sentence with a maximum of 2 years in jail. The Supreme Court gave their original decision in 1996, diluting charges that were left in limbo until they were addressed by last year’s Bhopal court conviction. The CBI petition sought to elevate the charges to culpable homicide (not amounting to murder), which carries a jail term of up to 10 years.  Pointing to the well-documented use of untested technologies at the factory and implementation of cost-cutting measures that compromised safety as solid evidence of the accused putting profits over people, the survivors’ organizations called this judgment ‘another black day for justice’ and said they will be weighing their options for further legal examination of this decision. For more information on the judgment, read the survivors’ press statement or activist Shalini Sharma’s blog on the courtroom developments.

2. Survivor's U.S. Tour in Early Spring a Success

Sanjay Verma, survivor, activist, and documentary star, toured the United States from March 17-April 9, battling forCarlson and Verma pictured with Janet and Martin Sheen public safety in a community vulnerable to a Bhopal-like disaster, and educating a U.S. audience on his personal experience in Bhopal.  Originally scheduled to testify against Bayer producing MIC at Bhopal's sister plant in Institute, WV, Sanjay began his journey in West Virginia.  In a surprise victory for public safety Friday, March 18, Bayer caved to community demands to halt manufacturing of the deadly chemical, before the hearing was scheduled to begin.  Following the West Virgina victory, Sanjay went on a five-city screening tour of Bhopali, Max Carlson's award-winning documentary on the disaster, in which he stars. Highlights of the tour included meeting Martin Sheen and his wife, Janet Sheen, supporters of  Carlson’s outstanding work and of the Bhopal campaign.  On May 8th, Bhopali won “Best Documentary” at the New York Indian Film Festival.

3.  In Bhopal, Environmental Contamination Clean-up Committee Marred by Dow Insiders’ Presence
On May 25, leaders of five Bhopal survivor organizations condemned the recommendations of the government-appointed, seven-member Peer Review Committee (PRC) on remediation of the toxic contamination in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory.  In a letter submitted to the Chairman of the Oversight Committee on Bhopal Environmental Rehabilitation, Jairam Ramesh, the organizations charged that the recommendations of the PRC were unscientific, unilaterally decided and were designed to help Dow avoid its Bhopal liabilities by paying a pittance for environmental remediation. Notably, two members of the PRC, Doctor Rama Rao and Professor G.D. Yadav, have significant ties with Dow. Additionally, the majority of PRC members have longstanding ties with the Indian Government’s National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), which produced an internationally-criticized report on Bhopal’s environmental contamination. The PRC disregarded independent experts' criticism of the report. The survivor groups’ press release emphasized that survivors would not tolerate the implementation of the PRC’s faulty proposal.

4. Divine Strings: Boston’s Soulful Benefit Concert for Bhopal
Divine Strings, a benefit concert featuring Carnatic and Jazz music, was held on May 7 at Northeastern University’sAishu Fenway Auditorium in Boston. Aishwarya Venkataraman, an ever-smiling 18-year-old violinist took center-stage to enthrall a crowd of well over 200 with brilliant artistry. Aishu was accompanied on the Mridangam by her father, Professor Vinod R. Venkataraman; Marc Rossi on the piano; Bob Tamagni on the drums; and Bill Urmson on the electric bass. The concert was divided into two parts: Carnatic – a form of traditional music that originated in the temples of Southern India – as well as a blend of Jazz and Carnatic arrangements, thus combining soulful and complex tones from the East with melodic and groovy musical arrangements from the West. The Boston chapter of ICJB organized this moving event, which helped raise money for the Bhopal survivors.

5. Annual Conference of Association for India’s Development (AID): Celebration and Reflection on 20 Years of AID
AIDA close partner of ICJB, the Association for India’s Development (AID) will be hosting its annual conference at the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass., during the 2011 Memorial Day Weekend (May 28 -May 30). AID is a volunteer movement promoting sustainable, equitable and just development through supporting grassroots organizations in India, with over 1000 volunteers spanning 36 chapters in the U.S. Keynote speakers at the conference are senior staff members from two of AID’s grassroots partners in India: Praful Chandel, Senior Village Coordinator of Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS) in Chhattisgarh, a premier rural healthcare organization operating in 50+ villages in central India, and Himanshu Kumar, a Gandhian human rights activist and founder of Vanavasi Chetana Ashram in Chhattisgarh.  With special significance to the Bhopal campaign, Rachna Dhingra, a longtime activist, a Jeevansaathi (full-time AID volunteer), and a leader of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action, will be coming from Bhopal to join the conference.  For additional conference information and online registration, please visit http://conference.aidindia.org/.

6.  A New Chapter for ICJB-North America
Beginning May 1, ICJB in North America will transition to a fully volunteer-led organization. The reason for this transition boils down to resources. To be clear, staffing and structure of ICJB-India will not change. Previous U.S. staff Shana Ortman and Claire Rosenfeld, along with six other dedicated Advisory Board members, will continue their involvement as volunteer leadership.  Each Advisory Board member will now take on specific roles to ensure that the North American-arm of the campaign continues to work effectively. There are two ways you can support this transition in North America:

  • Donate: support from our donors and activists will allow us to remain a vibrant organization that will continue to advocate for the Bhopal survivors in their struggle for justice, as well as the international movement for “No More Bhopals.”
  • Volunteer: we have lots of exciting projects which require a range of skills.  Use our new email address, icjb.us.ab@gmail.com, to let us know how you’d like to get involved.

While this transition won’t always be easy, we look forward to continuing an open dialogue with our supporters to keep our organization strong. Bhopalis and their supporters have created a global community of activists, which has remained persistent and effective over the past 26 years. 

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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.

Thank you for staying up-to-date with us.  Remember that we depend on your support to make this campaign possible.  Please make a donation today.
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Bhopal LowDOWn – January 2011

Bhopal LowDOWn – January 2011


In this issue:

1. Activists Commemorate 26th Anniversary
2. Introducing the 2011 Advisory Board
3. Bhopali Documentary to be Featured at Slamdance
4. Victory–MIC Production Will End in Institute, WV
5. Bhopal Requiem & Revitalization Workshop
6. Solidarity Action for Imprisoned Humanitarian Dr. Binayak Sen
7. Bhopal-Related Books on Sale, $3 Each!

1.  Activists Commemorate 26th AnniversaryBhopalis at the 26th rally

December 3rd marked 26 years since the Bhopal Gas Disaster; 26 years without adequate health care, without environmental clean-up, without legal justice, and without adequate economic compensation for the survivors.  Bhopal supporters worldwide joined together in commemorating the world’s worst industrial disaster.  From India, to the U.S., to Istanbul, activists participated in protests, educational events, and candlelight vigils.  Check out the activism map of events worldwide, see more photographs, and read more here.

2. Introducing the 2011 Advisory Board

We are please to introduce the 2011 Advisory Board for ICJB North America.  Returning members include Shana Ortman (Staff, San Francisco), Claire Rosenfeld (Staff, San Francisco), Leonid Chindelevitch (Boston), Tony Millard (Chicago), and Ellen Shifrin (Toronto).   A warm welcome to our new board members, Vinay Panday (Austin), Srikant Sarangi (Boston), and Premnandhini Satgunam (Boston).  Read their full biographies here.

ShanaClaireLeonidTonyEllenVinaySrikantPrem

3.  Bhopali Documentary to be Featured at Slamdance Film Festival

Bhopali the filmSlamdance Film Festival selected Bhopali, the most recent documentary on the disaster, directed by Max Carlson. The festival “for filmmakers by filmmakers” takes place in Salt Lake City, Utah, January 21-27.  View the trailer and find out more about the festival here.

4. Victory – MIC Production Will End in Institute, WV2008 explosion - photo from CBG Network

On Janurary 11, Bayer announced it will phase out production of the chemical methyl isocynate.  MIC was used for pesticide manufacturing at Bhopal’s Union Carbide plant; when it escaped from the storage tank in a runaway reaction, the toxic fumes killed thousands instantly.  The last chemical manufacture in the U.S. to produce the deadly chemical, Bayer’s Institute factory almost experienced a similar catastrophe in 2008, when an explosion nearly breached an MIC storage tank.  Read more here.

5.  Bhopal Requiem and Revitalization Workshop

From Janurary 23-February 4, The School of Planning and Arcitechure, the Modern Asian Arcitechure Network, and The International Committee for the Conservation of Industrial Hertitage will host a workshop and syposium in Bhopal.  Students and professors from all over the world will convene in Bhopal to discuss the tradgey and its fallout, as well as broader themes such as the role of heritage sites and memorials in society.  Read more on the workshop here. If you are interested in attending, please email Jan af Geijerstam.

6.  Solidarity Action for Imprisoned Humanitarian, Dr. Binayak SenDr. Sen

On December 24, Dr. Sen, an Indian human rights activist committed to providing healthcare to the poor, was sentenced to life in prison for his alleged ties to Maoists.  To learn more, read Human Rights Watch’s statement on the sentencing.  If you agree that Dr. Sen has been wrongly sentenced, please sign the petition. To get involved with the campaign please visit the campaign’s website.

7. Bhopal-Related Books on Sale, $3 Each!

Several excellent books on the Bhopal Gas Disaster and its aftermath are now on sale for a mere $3 per piece.  Titles include The Bhopal Reader, and outstanding anthology of Bhopal-related writing, and Trespass Against Us, which details Dow Chemical’s toxic legacy worldwide.  View the full selection here. To purchase a book at discounted price, please contact Marco Conner at marcoconner@gmail.com The deadline to order is January 21.

Thank you for staying up-to-date with us.  Remember that we need your support to make justice for Bhopal a reality.

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The LowDOWn – November 2010

Bhopal lowDOWn – November 2010

 


In this issue:

  1. Bhopal and Obama’s Visit to India
  2. Curry Cook-off 2010
  3. Upcoming 26th Anniversary
  4. Recent Victories
  5. News from Our Allies

 

1.  Bhopal and Obama’s Visit to India 

As you may know, President Obama made his first trip to India from November 6-9.  The visit was part of a 9 day trip to Asia which is the longest foreign trip undertaken by Obama.  However, he was disappointingly unresponsive to the Bhopal survivors’ requests for meetings or at the least, a statement.  When questioned on the issue in a private meeting, however, Mr. Obama allegedly said he would address the issue later.  Approximately 400 Bhopali activists traveled to Delhi to protest the U.S.’s stance on Bhopal.  Read our press release here.

Dow Chemical’s CEO Andrew Liveris was mysteriously and notably absent from Obama’s delegate of American businesses meeting in Bhopal.  Perhaps both parties realized Dow would not be warmly received in a country where Dow’s lack of responsibility for its subsidiary, Union Carbide Corporate, has done tremendous damage to the human element.

2nd Place, Kenny and Jenny with Kenny's Korma

2.  Second Annual Curry Cook-off: a Delicious Success!

For the second year running, we hosted our annual fundraiser in the colorful Mission District of San Francisco.  This year we featured seven different vegetarian curries, a range of silent auction and raffle items, and a dance performance by the talented Christine Germain.  The event attracted roughly 100 guests, from kids to college students to professionals.  Over the night we raised a grand total of $4,000 for ICJB North America!  We look forward to an even bigger event next year!  Download the full program here

3. The 26th Anniversary

Can you believe it?  26 years and still no justice for those affected by the 1984 Gas Disaster.  What does the December 3rd anniversary have in store for us this year?  Here in the U.S., we wil lcontinue to focus on the Obama Administration.  His Administration can’t be making these kind of statements, or be calling the issue a “closed case.”  Anniversary plans include worldwide protests, candlelight vigils, and film screenings. We’ll be sending more information and resources to take soon, so keep your ears open!  Contact us to get involved.

4.  Recent Victories

The Bhopal Campaign has been making small steps towards the larger goal of kicking Dow chemical out of India until they clean up Bhopal.  We aren’t alone in this David versus Goliath battle; in September, locals of a village near Pune successfully opposed the Rs 400-crore (about $9 million USD) proposed Dow Research & Development Center project.  The Indian Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) also blacklisted Dow Chemical’s subsidiary, Dow AgroSciences, from doing business in India for the next 5 years.  They were banned for bribing Indian government officials to expedite the registration of several pesticides. 

5.  What’s New with Our Allies

Annie Leonard, creator of The Story of Stuff, has published her team’s latest video on e-waste (the not-so-eco-friendly disposalof electronics).  It’s a great video, check it out here!

Fellow corporate accountability campaigners, Corporate Accountability International, is now accepting votes for the 2010 Hall of Shame, the worst corporate abusers of the year.  Shouldn’t Dow Chemical be in the top five? Vote now!

 

Thanks for staying up-to-date with us. Remember that we need your support to make justice in Bhopal a reality.


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