March 11, 2003

BHOPAL ACTIVISTS BLOCKADE DOW’S TEXAS HEADQUARTERS

Activists Call on Chemical Giant to Clean Up Bhopal

HOUSTON, Tex. – The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) returned contaminated drinking water from Bhopal, India, to Dow Chemical’s Texas headquarters today. Greenpeace activists blocked the entrances to the Houston Dow Center after delivering 250 gallons of contaminated water taken from wells in Bhopal, the site of the world’s worst industrial disaster. Protestors from Houston, Dallas, Austin, Seattle, Winston-Salem, NC, and Washington, D.C., demanded that Dow meet with Bhopal survivors to discuss their legitimate grievances and that the company drop two civil suits it has filed in India against Bhopal survivors.

“Our message is simple,” said Casey Harrell, a Greenpeace Toxics Campaigner. “Dow must clean up Bhopal now and accept full responsibility for the health and environmental damage in that city. Until it does so, Dow will never be a responsible corporate citizen.”

On the night of December 2, 1984, lethal methyl isocyanate gas spilled out from Union Carbide's pesticide factory in Bhopal, killing more than 8,000 people within the first three days. Following the leak, Union Carbide abandoned the plant, leaving hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals behind to leach into the soil and groundwater. Since the catastrophe, an estimated 20,000 people have died and another 150,000 Bhopal residents require urgent medical care.

In 2001, Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide. Dow’s refusal to accept responsibility for the Bhopal disaster stands in stark contrast to its acceptance of Union Carbide's liabilities in the U.S., including Texas, where it recently set aside $2.2 billion to settle asbestos-related claims.“We have returned toxic waste from Bhopal to Dow in India, in the Netherlands, and in Switzerland. Now we are returning this problem to Dow in the United States,” said Champa Devi, Secretary of BGPMSKS, one of the largest survivor organizations. “Dow Chemical’s reluctance so far to clean up the contamination and take responsibility for its pending liabilities in Bhopal is poisoning people daily and aggravating the suffering of survivors and their children.”

Company executives have refused to discuss the ongoing toxic legacy in Bhopal or constructively respond to the needs of the survivors. Adding insult to injury, Dow has filed lawsuits twice in India against Bhopal survivors who held nonviolent demonstrations against the company in Mumbai (Bombay) on the 17th and 18th anniversaries of the disaster. Around the world, supporters of Bhopal survivors are protesting Dow’s attempted denial of free speech by holding a “virtual sit-in” on Dow’s propaganda site, bhopal.com, this week.

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal calls on Dow to accept its pending legal liabilities in Bhopal, to clean up the site, to release to the survivors the chemical composition of the toxic gas, and to provide people with clean drinking water, long-term medical care and full compensation. The Campaign is also calling for international legislation to be put in place to make sure companies, such as Dow, are held responsible for pollution or accidents their operations cause, wherever they occur.

CONTACT: Nancy Hwa, Greenpeace Media Officer (202) 413-8521 (cell)
Krishnaveni Gundu, U.S. Coordinator, ICJB, (832) 444-1731;
krishnaveni_g@sbcglobal.net

Read the latest update here.

Web site – www.greenpeaceusa.org/bhopal