The Jhaadoo Maaro Campaign "Beat Dow with a broom" launched
in Bhopal on 6 October (see foot of this page) has already
pierced to the heart of Dow Chemical and humiliated its CEO Michael
Parker at what was meant to be a moment of "green glory"
for his company.
was just one blow in a week of seriously bad news for Dow.
Indian Criminal Bureau of Investigation (CBI) says that following
Union Carbide's continuing refusal to appear in court in Bhopal
to answer criminal charges of 'culpable homicide', the CBI is
moving to name Dow Chemical, Carbide's 100% owner, as Accused
#10 in the case. Dow will face the homicide charge thus far ignored
by its subsidiary, and all Dow assets, operations and investments
in India will be at risk if it ignores or defies the Court, which
has already seized all Carbide's Indian assets.
Extradition proceedings against former Carbide CEO Warren Anderson
are in their final stages, CBI prosecutor Sahay tells the Bhopal
Court. A formal Indian request for Anderson's extradition will
create a new public relations nightmare for Dow, which has always
maintained that its subsidiary Carbide had fulfilled all its legal
obligations in India and that there were no outstanding legal
The Government of Madhya Pradesh, the Indian State of which Bhopal
is the capital, announces that it will ask the Indian Supreme
Court to compel Dow Chemical to pay for the clean up of the derelict
Union Carbide factory site, which is heavily contaminated with
dangerous chemicals. A report released on 30 September by
People's Science Institute, Dehra Dun, found high concentrations
of mercury and other toxins in the drinking water of local communities.
1,000 babies born each year in these areas are nursing on breast
milk that contains lead and mercury originating from the plant.
In 1999 a Greenpeace study recorded mercury at levels up to six
million times higher than might have been expected.
Indian Central Government Minister of State for Home Affairs
I D Swamy and External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha in separate
interviews tell reporters that India is proceeding with an application
to extradite Carbide's ex-CEO Warren Anderson from the US.
Dows European headquarters in Horgen, Switzerland, Bhopali
granny Champa Devi's jhaadoo scares Dow's European CEO Lusciano
Respini so much that he runs from the room.
Speaking on behalf of all the survivors' organisations, Champa
tells Dow where it can stick its meaningless offer to make "a
humanitarian gesture" in Bhopal and says that the company
will have to face up to its legal liabilities.
TEXAS. A keynote speech at a $75-a-head environmental business
luncheon turns into embarrassment for Dow Chemical CEO Michael
Parker when the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB)
interrupts to present him with a jhaadoo and tell his audience
that lead and mercury leaching from Carbide's abandoned and derelict
factory have been found in the breast-milk of women living nearby.
The drinking wells stink of chemicals and the water tastes fiery.
Dow Chemical, as 100% owner of Union Carbide, inherits Carbide's
criminal and environmental liabilities in Bhopal and must clean
Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh has a meeting with survivors'
groups and Greenpeace to discuss guidelines drawn up by Greenpeace
scientists for the clean-up of Carbide's abandoned factory site.
The report is simultaneously handed to Dow offices in India, Europe
and the USA. Clean-up costs could end up costing Dow Chemical
more than $500 million.
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