Christy McCuaig, Tufts Daily, March 5, 2007
Andrew Liveris, the CEO of Dow Chemical, speaks at an EPIIC panel.
PHOTO: Jo Duara
On Saturday night during a panel in the ASEAN Auditorium about corporate responsibility, a question and answer session highlighted tensions regarding a chemical company connected to a massive industrial disaster that occurred over 22 years ago.
The panel, part of the 2007 Norris and Margery Bendetson EPIIC International Symposium entitled “Global Crises: Governance and Intervention,” featured seven speakers, including Andrew Liveris, the CEO of Dow Chemical and a current Tufts trustee.
During part of the night, Liveris had to defend Dow Chemical and its subsidiary company Union Carbide against pointed questions from audience members about a massive gas leak in Bhopal, India that led to what the BBC has called “one of the world’s largest industrial accidents.”
Approximately 3,000 people died in the days after the accident at Union Carbide’s Bhopal plant, and around 50,000 people required treatment in the same period, according to the BBC. More have died in the following years. Union Carbide has since reached an agreement to pay almost $500 million, a small amount of what was originally sought.
Warren Anderson, the then-chairman of Union Carbide, still faces criminal charges in India, but has not been extradited.
Much of the clash between students and Liveris came during the question and answer period of the event, during which he defended his company.
“I am sorry, but you have to get your facts straight,” Liveris told one questioner. “Go to New Delhi and talk to the Indian government. That case was settled long ago by Union Carbide with the Indian government for $470 million dollars which is still sitting in escrow,” he said.
He said it is now the Indian government’s job to use the money in an appropriate way. “It is the responsibility of the Indian government to clean up in Bhopal, not Dow,” he said.
But students entering Cabot Auditorium got a different impression while treading on a sidewalk featuring chalkings protesting Dow. One read “Poisoned by Dow,” while others included statistics.
Aquene Freechild, a Somerville resident and active member of Students for Bhopal, took responsibility for the chalkings.
“If I dump chemicals on your lawn, it doesn’t mean I’m not responsible for cleaning them up, even if it is your property,” she said.