FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: Krishnaveni Gundu
Tuesday, July 22, 9:00 a.m. EST PHONE: (832) 444-1731
US CONGRESSPERSONS ASK DOW CHEMICAL TO TAKE BHOPAL DISASTER LIABILITIES
Eighteen members of Congress sent a letter to Dow Chemical today, condemning
the corporation for "refusing to address" liabilities associated
with the 1984 chemical gas disaster in Bhopal, India, the worst industrial
tragedy in human history. "The disaster in Bhopal continues,"
the letter states, "and is likely to worsen if Dow Chemical does
not step forward to fulfill its responsibilities," the letter said.
Midland, Michigan-based Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide Corporation(UCC)
in February 2001, despite being warned about UCC's significant outstanding
liabilities in Bhopal. Dow's refusal to address these liabilities makes
it a "party to the ongoing human rights and environmental abuses
in Bhopal," stated the members of Congress.
A deadly gas leak from Union Carbides pesticide factory in Bhopal
on December 3, 1984, poisoned at least 500,000 people. More than 8,000
people died within three days and over 20,000 people have died to date
as a result of their exposure. An estimated 1,50,000 people continue to
suffer from long-lasting effects of gas exposure, which include diminished
vision, cancer, respiratory, neurological and gynecological disorders.
Second generation victims are known to be suffering from growth defects
and severe menstrual disorders.
The site has never been properly cleaned up and abandoned chemical wastes
continue to poison over 10,000 inhabitants of the communities living in
the vicinity of the abandoned factory. Testing conducted by Greenpeace
in 1999 found cancer, brain-damage- and birth-defect-causing chemicals
in soil and groundwater in and around the factory site, at levels up to
50 times higher than EPA safety limits. Mercury levels were 20,000 to
6 million times higher than levels accepted by WHO. A 2002 study by the
Fact-Finding Mission on Bhopal found traces of lead and mercury in the
breast milk of nursing women.
The letter, circulated by Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), co-chair of the Progressive
Caucus, and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), follows a meeting on Capitol Hill with
Rashida Bi and Champa Devi Shukla, two women survivors and leading members
of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB). At the meeting,
organized in May by Kucinich and the ICJB, the survivors testified to
the ongoing humanitarian and environmental crisis in Bhopal. Following
the meeting, Kucinich and Pallone drafted the Congressional sign-on letter,
and at least one member, Jim McDermott (D-WA), expressed an interest in
visiting Bhopal on the 19th anniversary of the disaster in December 2003.
The members of Congress demand that Dow provide medical rehabilitation
and economic reparations for the victims of the tragedy; clean up contamination
in and around the former factory site in Bhopal; and ensure that the Union
Carbide Corporation, now a 100% subsidiary of Dow, appears before the
Chief Judicial Magistrate's court in Bhopal, where UCC faces criminal
charges of manslaughter.
U.S. Representatives Kucinich (D-OH), Pallone (D-NJ), Grijalva (D-AZ),
Brown (D-OH), Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Baldwin (D-WI), Towns (D-NY), Holt (D-NJ),
Stark (D-CA), DeLauro (D-CT), Crowley (D-NY), Faleomavaega (D-Am. Samoa),
Solis (D-CA), Payne (D-NJ), Hinchey (D-NY), Schakowsky (D-IL), Markey
(D-MA), and Lee (D-CA).
"It is disheartening to note that a company such as Dow, who professes
to lead the chemical industry towards 'responsible care' shies away from
its obligations when truly responsible care can be demonstrated,"
the letter states. "More disturbing is the manner in which Union
Carbide and Dow Chemical have ignored the summons of the Bhopal court.
This exposes a blatant disregard for the law."
refusal to accept or address its liabilities around the world completely
undermines its claim of environmental leadership,"declared G Krishnaveni,
the US Coordinator for ICJB. "While Dow continues to evade and delay,
people in Bhopal continue to die. After 18 years, it's high time that
the company demonstrated some accountability, and we're happy that so
many members of Congress have called on Dow to do just that."
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal
(Coalition of environmental & social justice organisations led by
women's survivor groups of 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster)
Cellphone +1 832 444 1731