AN APPEAL TO TAKE PART IN AN URGENT FAX ACTION ON BEHALF OF 56 MEMBERS OF THE CLEAN-UP TEAM FACING CRIMINAL CHARGES IN BHOPAL ON DECEMBER 5
 

Dear Friends,

On 25th November, 2002, survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster along
with supporters of the campaign for justice in Bhopal entered the derelict
Union Carbide factory site to make safe a portion of the toxic wastes
abandoned by Union Carbide. The activists were violently removed from the
factory site by the Madhya Pradesh police who beat, kicked, dragged and
abused the trained personnel who had gathered at the factory to begin
containment of the toxic wastes. Among those violently harassed by the
police were gas-affected women and supporters from 14 countries. Not only
has the Madhya Pradesh State Government failed to deliver justice to the
survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster. It has gone so far as
to violently crush any attempts by the survivors to protect their own
health. In doing so, the Government has exposed its eagerness to protect
the US multinational Dow Chemical even at the cost of its own people.

The toxic wastes, contaminated material and obsolete pesticides lying
inside the factory and the toxic wastes buried in two solar evaporation
ponds have already seriously contaminated the groundwater in the nearby
areas. Numerous studies -- from 1990 onwards -- confirm that the
groundwater in the region is poisoned by chemicals including potential
carcinogens. A study released in 2002 by the Fact Finding Mission found
high levels of various poisons including the deadly neurotoxin mercury in
the breast milk of mothers living around the factory site.

Over the last 18 years, numerous representations have been made to the
State Government, Union Government, Union Carbide and its new owner Dow
Chemical pointing to the ongoing damage to human health and environment
because of the chemical contamination. Survivors organisations and their
supporters have demanded that Union Carbide (and more recently Dow
Chemical) be made to clean up the contamination and compensate the victims
of water pollution. But neither the State Government nor the Polluters
(Carbide and Dow) have taken any steps to protect the health of the people
living around the factory site.

The lack of action by the state to get Union Carbide/Dow to make safe the
toxic substances at the factory site represents a serious violation of the
human rights -- Right to a Clean Environment; Right to healthy life -- of
local communities. The violence against the local communities and their
supporters by the MP Police on 25 November is yet another gross violation
of the Rights of communities to protect themselves.

In any case, spurred into action by the direct action of 25 November, 2002,
a high-level team comprising the Chief Secretary, Secretary (Gas Relief)
and other senior bureaucrats plans to meet on 5 December, 2002 to discuss
the long-pending issue of toxic contamination from the Union Carbide
factory site.

 

SUGGESTED TEXT TO FAX OR EMAIL TO THE BHOPAL CHIEF MINISTER

We request you to send in strong letters to the addresses below. Here's a
model letter.


To: The Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh
Vallabh Bhavan
Bhopal, India
Tel: +91 755 550906
Fax: +91 755 540501
Email: cm@mpchiefminister.com

Copy: Chairman, State Human Rights Commission
Paryavas Bhavan, Arera Hills
Jail Road, Bhopal, India
Fax: 0755 574028
Email: mphrc@sancharnet.in


Sir:
On 25 November, the State Police violently removed more than 50 people from
the Union Carbide factory site for attempting to make safe the toxic
substances abandoned there for more than 18 years. The police's action
shows you and your state in very poor light.

First, it throws into question whether your state really has the interests
of its people in its mind. The toxic wastes abandoned by Union Carbide have
not been cleaned by the polluter despite repeated demands by local
communities. The State Government has known about the contamination, about
the sufferings faced by the local people owing to the contamination, and
about the demands of the people for at least 11 years now, but has chosen
to initiate no steps to hold the polluter (Union Carbide and Dow)
accountable. Neither has the State Government done anything to provide a
long-term solution to the lack of clean drinking water in the communities
now consuming poisoned groundwater. Rather, by refusing to acknowledge the
presence of below-the-ground contamination, the State seems keen on
safeguarding the interests of the polluter.


Second, your Government has chosen to violently attack gas-affected people
and their supporters who were engaged in protecting themselves from the
poisons abandoned by Union Carbide. By failing to protect the health of the
people and the environment in the face of a clear and present danger -- in
the form of toxic substances lying at Union Carbide -- your Government has
lost all moral authority over the factory site. The acts of the police --
caught graphically in the video footage -- is despicable, especially given
that your Government is clearly in the wrong. The Police has been filmed
kicking, dragging, beating and threatening the trained personnel gathered
inside the factory grounds to make safe the wastes. The police are also
seen manhandling the women, including gas-affected people. Worse, some of
the activists, including gas victims, have been absurdly charged with
rioting among other things. As the videos will attest, the only rioting at
the site was done by the State Police. Moreover, it is ironical that a
State Government that has not shown any enthusiasm in bringing to book
those accused of the 1984 Gas disaster would go as far as to beat up and
arrest the victims of the disaster.

I request you expeditiously to set right the situation by:

1. Taking steps to get Dow Chemical to clean up the factory site, its
surroundings and the contaminated groundwater;

2. Drop the false charges against those arrested by the police on 25
November from the Union Carbide factory site;

3. Take action against Reserve Inspector Mr. P.S. Chouhan and his
colleagues for using force against people who offered no resistance.

Sincerely,