December 4th, 2002
URGE DOW CHEMICAL TO TAKE
RESPONSIBILITY FOR BHOPAL DISASTER
Letter Sent to Parker, Stavropoulos on Opening Day
of Salomon Smith Barney Chemical Conference
by Tim Edwards
YORK - A group of socially responsible investment funds, with assets
valued at $13 billion, are urging Dow Chemical Company to address ongoing
economic, health and environmental liabilities stemming from a poisonous
gas leak in Bhopal, India, which has killed and injured tens of thousands
of people to date. The investors, Trillium Asset Management, Domini
Social Investments, Calvert Group and others, sent a letter to Dow"s
CEO Michael Parker and board Chair William Stavropoulos, calling on
them to "continue dialogue with representatives of Bhopal citizens
groups, to take their claims seriously, and to work towards a mutually
The letter comes
as the chemical industry gathers in New York for the two-day 13th
annual Salomon Smith Barney Chemical Conference, which will feature
a presentation by Parker. "I can"t think of a more fitting
occasion to deliver this letter " at a conference to discuss the
future of the chemical industry in the U.S.," said Steve Lippman
of Trillium Asset Management. "On the 18th anniversary
of arguably the worlds" largest industrial disaster, and at a time
when the public has never been more concerned about corporate responsibility,
Dow must address the ongoing problems of the citizens of Bhopal, where
even after all these years children born to survivors suffer debilitating
illnesses, and mothers exposed to contaminated drinking water carry
mercury in their breast milk."
In February 2001,
Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide, the owners of the pesticide plant
in Bhopal in 1984, the year of the disaster. In January of this
year Dow settled asbestos lawsuits filed against Union Carbide in the
United States - part of the liabilities it assumed as a result of the
Carbide buyout - but it has so far refused to take any responsibility
for the pending liabilities connected to the Bhopal disaster, which
include a Class Action in New York and an ongoing criminal case in the
Indian courts. Following the asbestos litigation, Dow"s stock fell
a dramatic £7 billion dollars due to investor fears of further
Publicly, Dow continues
to insist that Union Carbide had completely satisfied the Indian courts
and that no legal issues remain outstanding. "In fact", Gary
Cohen of the ICJB said today, "a warrant for the arrest of Carbide"s
ex-CEO Warren Anderson on charges of "culpable homicide" has
been out since 1992, charges reaffirmed by the Central Magistrates Court,
Bhopal, in August. And in October, India"s Home Affairs Minister
and Foreign Affairs Minister confirmed that India will formally ask
for Anderson"s extradition from the U.S." In what was a poor
month for the company, India"s Central Bureau of Investigation
also announced that it would move to name Dow Chemical Accused #10 in
the Bhopal criminal case in place of Union Carbide. The Indian State
of Madhya Pradesh, of which Bhopal is the capital, followed this by
saying that it would ask the Indian Courts to compel Dow Chemical to
pay for the clean-up of the contamination polluting the soil and ground
water around the abandoned factory
Campaign for Justice in Bhopal has long been pressing Union Carbide
and now Dow to provide for adequate health care for gas survivors, and
to clean up the abandoned factory site. Two days ago, on the 18th
anniversary of the disaster, a procession through central Bombay delivered
contaminated soil and water from the site to Dow Chemical's headquarters
in India. The procession, led by more than 200 Bhopali women,
also delivered 4,000 brooms to the company alongside the message, "Dow,
Clean Up Your Mess."
Dow, whose $28 billion
in annual sales make it the world's 'largest chemical manufacturer,
has recently associated itself with a number of prominent "sustainable
development" initiatives, including the World Business Council
for Sustainable Development and the chemical industry"s own "Responsible
Care" programme of self-regulation. Ironically, Responsible Care
- developed through a partnership of Union Carbide and Dow in the immediate
aftermath of the Bhopal disaster " has, as one of its abiding principles,
the promise "to work with others to
resolve problems associated with past handling and disposal practices".
The poisonous gas
leak at the Bhopal pesticide factory in 1984 left 8,000 people dead
within three days. To date, more than 20,000 have died from ongoing
health problems associated with exposure to the lethal gases, and up
to 150,000 survivors are chronically ill. Much of the abandoned
factory remains, with tons of toxic chemicals left on site, leaching
into the soil and contaminating some of the communities" drinking
water. Survivors do not have adequate health care, and received
an average of USD$500 each from a settlement negotiated by the Indian
government with Union Carbide without the survivors" consent.
# # #
Steve Lippman, Trillium, (415) 392 4806;
Gary Cohen, ICJB, (617) 524-6018
Casey Harrell, Greenpeace, (202) 319-2497.
letter can be located at: www.bhopal.net
Poisonous gas leak from Union Carbide"s pesticides factory.
First Information Report filed on December 4. In three days around 8,000
people die: www.bhopal.net/death-toll.html
December 7 Prime accused Warren Anderson amongst nine others
arrested, released on bail of Rs 25,000. Union Carbide named as accused
#10 in the criminal case charging culpable homicide.
February 1989 Government and Union Carbide strike
a settlement. The compensation amount is brought down to $470 million
from $3.3 billion. UCC"s criminal charges quashed " reinstated
April 1992 After ignoring four court summonses, Anderson
declared a fugitive from law. Magistrate in pending criminal proceedings
ordered the attachment of the shares of UCIL held by UCC.
November 1994 Supreme allows Union Carbide to sell off
its encumbered assets to fund a hospital. Criminal proceedings against
Union Carbide become difficult to enforce because, although the accused
refuse to appear in Court, Carbide no longer has any assets in India.
August 1999 Union Carbide announces forthcoming merger
with Dow Chemical Company.
November 1999 Greenpeace tests soil, groundwater and wells
in and around the derelict Union Carbide factory and finds 12 volatile
organic chemicals and mercury in quantities up to 6 million times higher
than expected. The toxic inventory includes sevin, temik, lindane carbon
tetrachloride, dichlorobenzenes and others. A report by Delhi based
Shristi in Jan 2002 found lead and mercury in the breast milk of nursing
mothers in neighbouring communities: www.bhopal.net/contamination.html
November 1999 Several victims of Bhopal disaster file class
action suit against Union Carbide and its former CEO, Warren Anderson,
in federal court in New York, charging Carbide with violating international
human rights law, environmental law, and international criminal law.
February 2001 Merger occurs. Dow inherits assets and liabilities
of Union Carbide. However, Dow claims it is not responsible for a factory
it didn"t operate - lawyers advise that under Indian and U.S. law
this is legal nonsense. Survivors demand Dow should be held responsible
for all medical and environmental liabilities in Bhopal and that pending
criminal liabilities against UCC be transferred to Dow. Dow's $10 billion
acquisition of Union Carbide opens the possibility of enforcing criminal
liability against the corporation as Dow has four subsidiaries and substantial
assets in India.
November 2001 US Second Circuit Court of Appeals reinstates
parts of the Class Action, allowing all claims of pollution and contamination
unrelated to the disaster to proceed. Internal documents to be obtained
from Union Carbide via the discovery process: www.earthrights.org/bhopal/
January 9, 2002 Dow accepts Carbide"s liabilities
in the U.S. and settles a Texas asbestos lawsuit originally filed against
Union Carbide. Its share price skids 23%, to close at $26.83 on Jan.
18. The plunge wiped out $7.16 billion in equity and put Dow shares
back where they were in October, 2000.
August 28, 2002 Charges of culpable homicide reaffirmed
against Warren Anderson by Chief Judicial Magistrate Kothe in Bhopal
court. Court demands his immediate extradition.
September 30, 2002 A new study from The People"s
Science Institute, Dehra Dun confirms the presence of mercury in Bhopal
drinking water - in some places as high as 2microgrammes per litre -
and warns of grave risk to health. People have been drinking the water
for 18 years after the gas leak.
October 6 2002 Jhaadoo Maaro Dow Ko" campaign launched
by survivors in Bhopal. The phrase means "Hit Dow with a broom".
It is an invitation for Dow to clean up its toxic mess and a promise
to sweep Dow out of India if it does not.
October 18 2002 CBI"s Mr Sahay states that he has
appealed to the Union government to name Dow alongside its criminally
absconding subsidiary Carbide. Once permission is granted, Dow Chemicals
will also be an accused in the Bhopal criminal case.
October 21 2002 State of Madhya Pradesh announces
that it will petition the Indian Supreme Court to compel Dow Chemical
to clean up the contaminated soil and ground water at the Union Carbide
October 21 - 23 2002 Indian 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.
October 25 2002 Guidelines drawn up by Greenpeace for
the clean-up of Carbide"s abandoned factory site are presented
to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh and simultaneously handed
to Dow offices in India, Europe and the USA. Clean up costs could top
November 14 2002 Survivors release documents obtained
via discovery in the New York class action. Documents show that UCC
imposed "unproven technology" in the critical MIC unit in
order to cut costs and retain control of their Indian subsidiary.
November 22 2002 More documents show UCC to be
aware of massive groundwater and soil contamination in Bhopal for more
than ten years. The company issued public denials throughout, eventually
abandoning the site to the Madhya Pradesh govt.
November 25 2002 Survivor organizations, community members
and Greenpeace attempted to safely contain the hazardous pesticides
in Bhopal. Activists trained in hazardous material handling arrived
from around the world to lend their expertise, but efforts were thwarted
by local police, who beat and arrested 56 people.
constant updates please keep checking http://www.bhopal.net/