DowSpeak

 

Rebuttal of Dow/Carbide position on Bhopal

 

 

The emotions Bhopal evokes in Dow/Carbide are fear and contempt: fear of being found guilty in a criminal case they are fugitives from, and contempt for their victims and the law.

Dow says: The 1984 gas leak in Bhopal was a terrible tragedy which understandably continues to evoke strong emotions even 20 years later. In the wake of the gas release, Union Carbide Corporation, and then- chairman Warren Anderson, worked diligently to provide aid to the victims and set up a process to resolve their claims. All claims arising out of the release were settled 15 years ago at the explicit direction and approval of the Supreme Court of India.

The facts: In the wake of the disaster, Carbide and Warren Anderson worked diligently to delay legal proceedings, misinform doctors, hide assets and deny adequate relief. Civil claims were ended 13 years ago: environmental damages, criminal charges and, potentially, punitive damages remain pending.

Dow says: The Bhopal plant was owned and operated by Union Carbide India, Limited (UCIL), an Indian company in which Union Carbide Corporation held just over half the stock. The other stockholders included Indian financial institutions and thousands of private investors in India. The plant was designed, built, and managed by UCIL using Indian consultants and workers. In 1994, Union Carbide sold its half interest in UCIL to MacLeod Russell (India) Limited of Calcutta, and UCIL was renamed Eveready Industries India, Limited. After the disaster, plant owner UCIL obtained permission from the government to conduct cleanup work at the site. Later, Eveready Industries continued this remediation effort until 1998 when the state government of Madyah (sic) Pradesh assumed control of the site and its remediation.

The facts: Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) held a majority 50.9% stake in Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL), through which it enacted control of management, budgets, operating and safety procedures and profits, as per corporate policy. The plant design was plotted and overseen on an ongoing basis by US based Carbide engineers, one of whom was employed as works manager until the end of 1982. In 1994, Carbide controversially, and against the wishes of the Bhopal court where it faced criminal charges, sold its UCIL shares, which had anyhow been attached by the court due to Carbide absconding from the criminal case. Despite the directions of the local government and evidence of severe community water poisoning, UCIL failed to clean up the contamination around the site. After Eveready Industries, its new guise, fled its responsibilities, the government filed legal suit to force it to clean up. This was soon followed by a survivors' suit against Carbide in New York that is now close to trial.

Dow says: As a result of the sale their shares in UCIL, Union Carbide retained no interest in - or liability for - the Bhopal site, and Eveready Industries took exclusive possession of the land under lease from the government of Madhya Pradesh. The proceeds of the UCIL sale were placed in a trust and exclusively used to fund a hospital in Bhopal, which now provides specialist care to victims of the tragedy.

The facts: The polluter Carbide oversaw the failed remediation until at least 1995, hid internal reports dating back to 1989 that showed the pollution to be lethal, and watched its US-trained manager complete the abandonment of the site with keen interest yet refuses to pay for clean up in contradiction of US, Indian and international law. The Bhopal hospital, ordered by the Supreme Court and paid for by the criminal court's attachments, took nearly nine years to build and has been heavily criticised for its practises. See earlier news stories on www.bhopal.net.

Dow says: Shortly after the gas release, Union Carbide launched an aggressive effort to identify the cause. A thorough investigation was conducted by the engineering consulting fi rm Arthur D. Little. Its conclusion: The gas leak could only have been caused by deliberate sabotage. Someone purposely put water in the gas storage tank, causing a massive chemical reaction. Process safety systems had been put in place that would have kept the water from entering into the tank by accident.

The facts: Straight after the deaths of at least 8,000 people, Carbide launched an aggressive effort to obscure the cause. The disaster could not have happened without the incautious design, poor materials, understaffing and inadequate safety systems caused by reckless cost-cutting, but Carbide hired Arthur D Little to provide pseudo-scientific backing to its utterly derided sabotage theory. An adequate set of safety processes would have anyway made sabotage impossible.

Dow says: Union Carbide, along with the rest of the chemical industry, has worked to develop and globally implement Responsible Care in order to prevent any future events through improving community awareness, emergency preparedness, and process safety standards.

The facts: Union Carbide and Dow's CEOs developed the PR programme 'Responsible Care' to fend off legislative regulation of the chemical industry. In Bhopal, lest we forget, there was no emergency plan, no community information and a process safety system that required workers to act as leak detectors.

For more Dow statements: For more information about Bhopal.
For more information about Union Carbide.

For more information about Responsible Care.
And also here.

For the facts: For more information about Bhopal. And also here.
For more information about Dow/Carbide.
Also this excellent page.

For more information about Responsible Care.