DAY 10 of HUNGER STRIKE

BHOPAL SURVIVORS' STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE COMMUNITY OF GREENDALE, NEAR DETROIT, MICHIGAN

We dedicate the tenth day of our fast to our brothers, sisters, and their children and grandchildren, in Greendale, near Detroit, Michigan. Like the survivors of Bhopal, Greendale residents are poor and hence victims of pollution. Like the survivors of Bhopal, Greendale residents are fighting against a powerful corporation, Ontario-based Canflow, and an irresponsible Government to protect themselves and their children from the ravages of pollution.

Canflow dumps on average six truckloads of industrial waste water collected from Ontario, Canada, into the Detroit sewer system at Greendale. The sewage and toxic wastewaters back up from the sewage system and enter the nearby homes through the toilets and basements. Needless to say, the residents of Greendale, most notably the children, are suffering serious health effects. Through an organised effort, the residents have temporarily managed to stop this practice. However, the fight is far from over. The company may be allowed to resume operations once again, and the residents are still fighting for medical monitoring and rehabilitation, and clean up of the contamination among other things.

As victims of corporate pollution, our heart goes out to the residents of Greendale. The fight for justice in Bhopal and the fight by Greendale residents against Canflow and the Detroit city authorities is one. We resolve to join hands to help each other as people united against all forms of discrimination and injustices.

Signed/
Rasheeda Bee
Champa Devi
Satinath Sarangi

REPORT FROM THE BHOPAL ACTIVISTS'
VISIT TO GREENDALE, MICHIGAN


The Bhopal survivors dedicated the tenth day of their fast to the Greendale community in north Detroit. On May 10, Rashida Bee, Champa Devi and Satinath Sarangi visited Greendale to show support for residents fighting to reclaim their neighborhood from industrial pollution. Rhonda Anderson, the environmental justice coordinator for the Detroit chapter of the Sierra Club, facilitated the meeting between the Bhopal activists and residents of the Greendale community.

Ms Vicky Burton – a grandmother and long time resident of Greendale welcomed Rashida Bee, Champa Devi and Sathyu to her home with chairs in front of her porch and pictures of water ready for drinking. Bordering Vicky Burton’s backyard is Canflow’s Detroit waste water disposal plant.

Canflow is a Canadian company that receives money to collect and dispose of wastewater from industrial wash operations throughout the province of Ontario, Canada. Canflow’s practice for almost 27 years was to bring five to six truckloads a day of this liquid industrial waste to their plant in Greendale, a low income, predominantly African American residential neighborhood, to be then discharged into the Detroit city sewer system.

Often, when the cross piping was over burdened by the high level of discharges, the water would back up into the Greendale residents’ basements as well as be rerouted through their drinking and bath water. Residents of the neighborhood dealt with noxious odors and polluted water for nearly 25 years before Vicky and other residents in the neighborhood, with the help of Rhonda and the Sierra Club’s recent environmental justice program, got organized and managed to get the site shut down two years ago. The city of Detroit has not guaranteed to the residents that the site will remain closed. Residents know their struggle is not over. Residents walked wthe survivors through their neighborhood to the site of the plant. They explained how the grass, flowers and small animals have now only just started to come back since the plant has been closed.

With her daughters gathered around her, and their children and young neighborhood friends playing around them, Vicky sat with Champa Devi and Rashida Bee reviewing pictures and stories from Bhopal, discussing the cruelties and injustices of a global corporate culture that has no regard for the humanity of poor people and that is not held accountable by legal and governmental institutions. They shared their disgust that their governments were not willing to stand up to these global corporations to protect their rights as citizens. Residents of Greendale were outraged as they learned more about DOW’s refusal to clean up the Union Carbide site in Bhopal and were made aware of the way in which toxic chemicals were leaching into the local groundwater. They were immediately ready to take action on behalf of the survivors and asked what they could do to help.

The women knew an immediate solidarity that comes from shared experience. Ms. Vicky Burton expressed her belief that victimized communities will have to work together so that corporations will not be able to run from one poor community to the next. But these activists shared more than sorrows and anger with each other. They also shared humor and joy, passing new grandchildren, and the hope for a better future, into each other’s arms.

Vicky garlanded Champa Devi and Rashida with coral beads that her daughter had strung together the night before. Champa Devi said that the visit felt for a time as if they were in their own homes. Rashida Bee explained afterwards that with affected people the survivors do not have to spend a lot of time explaining or convincing, that they understand one another other quickly. “We know that communities like this, communities victimized by corporate practice like ours, will be ready to fight and our struggle can expand throughout the entire globe”. Rashida expressed her appreciation of the way in which the residents of Greendale – sitting right in the shadows of corporate terror and disregard- still knew howto laugh and dance while struggling. Their laughter has an enjoyment and particular kind of pleasure that is not found elsewhere.

Detroit News story on Sierra Club officials' visit to Canflow pollution sites