Open Letter to Dow Chemical

          The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal North America condemns in the strongest terms Dow Chemical’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Summer Olympics. The London Olympics Committee forgot, or rather deliberately ignored, Dow’s responsibility for the 1984 Bhopal, India gas disaster, the worst industrial accident in history. For a games that purport to be the “greenest” and “most sustainable yet,” Dow’s sponsorship is a farce.

           Contra Dow and LOCOG, all past grievances are not settled and Dow remains liable for compensation of victims and clean-up of the disaster site. In December of 1984 a gas leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant inundated Bhopal with toxic methyl isocyanate gas. Thousands were killed outright and in the years after, and many times more were injured and afflicted with permanent illnesses. Today victims continue to suffer and die untimely deaths due also to contamination of drinking water in and around the disaster site. In total over 25000 died and over 20000 were injured. Dow purchased Union Carbide in 2001, which remains to date a wholly owned Dow subsidiary. As a result Dow inherited any and all outstanding liability for the disaster.

          Moreover, US and Indian courts both continue to debate Dow’s liability for Bhopal, despite Dow’s claims to the contrary. The Indian government in 2010 filed a curative petition in an effort to secure once and for all just compensation for the victims from Dow, more than the meager amount allotted to them in the form of settlement with Union Carbide in 1989. Even if the settlement is upheld, as Dow feverishly hopes, there remain cases pending in US courts that challenge Dow’s responsibility for environmental remediation of the disaster site.

          Dow and LOCOG, as well as some members of the British government, continue to deny that Bhopal is an issue, that instead all past grievances are in fact settled, and that Dow is a fit partner for the Summer Games. Dow repeatedly appeals to the 1989 settlement, and insists perversely that any further liability, e.g. for clean-up of the disaster site, rests with the Indian government. LOCOG likewise denies that Dow remains liable for Bhopal, even after it was presented evidence of Dow’s misdeeds and subterfuge by victims and solidarity groups, like the UK Bhopal Medical Appeal. Finally, Prime Minister David Cameron half-heartedly acknowledged the suffering of victims but declined to attribute it to Dow.

          To the consternation of Dow and LOCOG both, however, Dow’s sponsorship elicited widespread condemnation in Britain and abroad, and continues to, from MP’s in Britain’s parliament, who, from across party lines, joined together to demand that Dow be dropped from the Olympics, and that an independent investigation be mounted as to why “a company whose name is inextricably linked with the worst chemical disaster in human history” was awarded a deal in the first place; and the Indian government, which vows to send no officials to any Olympic ceremonies; to Olympic athletes from across the world who formed “Athletes Against Dow Chemical’s Sponsorship,” and Meredith Alexander, a member of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, a committee that monitored the UK’s bid for the Olympics, who resigned in protest. Even Dow is concerned: appearances notwithstanding, recent Wikileaks reveal that Dow spied on and monitored Bhopal activists leading up to the Olympics.

          ICJB North America stands with the victims of the Bhopal gas disaster, understood not as a tragedy but as a colossal act of ongoing malfeasance on the part of Union Carbide and Dow, and demands that LOCOG sever ties with Dow and apologize to the victims immediately.

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