investors and analysts may be interested to work out for themselves
the potential liabilities faced by their company.
can hardly go on denying that it has a legal problem in India.
It can no longer rely on its old PR soundbyte about the 1989 settlement
extinguishing all criminal liablities. That settlement was appealed
and was amended by an Indian Supreme Court judgement in 1991 which
reinstituted the criminal charges. By not acknowledging this fact,
first Carbide, then Dow, have in effect lied to their shareholders
for years. Dow, as predicted by those of its shareholders who
opposed the 2001 merger, has now been dragged into the criminal
case and the question of criminal liabilities remains wide open.
Should judgement go against it, the company will face huge criminal
As we have already seen, the 1989 settlement figure of $470 million
was pitifully inadequate. It gave most survivors just $500 each,
which was not enough to cover the cost of medicines in the first
year after Carbide's poison gas leak, let alone the eighteen years
which have elapsed. The future health care of survivors becomes
the company's responsibility. Harmful effects of the gases have
now begun appearing in the second and third generations of Bhopal
citizens living near the plant. Their future health care will
have to be taken into account. Many thousands of people were unable
to work after they were exposed to Carbide's gases and were driven
to destitution. Reparation will duly have to be made to them.
official death-toll from the poison gas leak already stands at
more than 20,000. Families of victims of the 9/11 attacks in New
York have been awarded around $1,000,000 for their suffering.
Suffering is a universal human experience, not dependent on geography
or social status. The anguish of a mother in Bhopal is just as
grievous as the anguish of a mother in Brooklyn.
The abandoned factory site is polluted by some of the most dangerous
chemical poisons on the planet. Both soil and ground-water are
contaminated. The Greenpeace guidelines presented this week to
the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh who is petitioning
the Supreme Court to make Dow pay for the clean-up specify
that the clean-up should be carried out to standards which operate
Ruth Stringer, scientist from Greenpeace Research Laboratory,
Exeter University (UK) and co-author of the technical guidelines
said "Clean-up should be aimed to remove all detectable contamination
from the site wherever technologically possible.Where this is
not possible, final concentrations should be based on the highest
standards applicable at the intergovernmental level (eg WHO limits
for drinking water) or, where these do not exist, the most stringent
limits applicable in the USA or other industrialised countries."
the Greenpeace guidlines here. (735K PDF )
may exceed $500 million.What
Dow shareholders urgently need to realise is that the 1989 settlement
did not and does not cover the issue of contamination. Union Carbide
systematically dumped lethal chemicals for years before and
after the gas leak. People living in communities near the
factory have been exposed for upwards of two decades to Carbide's
poisons, the lists of which read like a toxicologist's nightmare.
Class Action suit brought by survivors and their supporters against
Union Carbide on this issue is currently underway in New York.
We will keep you informed of progress.
has been a bleak week for Dow. There is worse to come. Watch this