Safe water: Bhopal protestors taste first victory

Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha
Bhopal Group for Information and Action
Bhopal ki Awaaz

16 April, 2006. New Delhi
Bhopalis and their supporters, who are currently demonstrating in Jantar Mantar and the six people who are on their 6 th day of indefinite hunger strike, today celebrated their first victory after hearing news that the Madhya Pradesh Government announced Rs. 17 crores to provide safe water to communities currently drinking groundwater laced with poisons from Union Carbide’s toxic wastes. The announcement that was made by Minister for Gas Relief Mr. Babulal Gaur was received with cautious optimism. “Mr. Gaur’s announcement of allotting Rs. 17 crores for water from Kolar Dam is a positive development and a comfort to those of us on indefinite fast and those of us who walked 800 km. But we need to see concrete plans and a timeline that ensures that water is delivered before summer sets in,” said Shehazadi Bee, a resident of Blue Moon Colony and one of the indefinite hunger strikers. Blue Moon Colony is one of the settlements where groundwater is highly poisonous.
On 29 March, after completing the march from Bhopal to Delhi, a Bhopal delegation had met the Minister of Chemicals, Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, and Secretary to the Ministry, Ms. Satwant Reddy. Both assured the delegation that they will send a team led by the Secretary to Bhopal on 18-19 April. After discussions with representatives of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha, Bhopal ki Awaaz and Bhopal Group for Information and Action, the Secretary and Minister said that they would raise the matter of drinking water and memorial to the gas disaster with the Chief Secretary of the Madhya Pradesh Government. The four organisations have said that it is imperative that execution of the Kolar water scheme is done with the participation of the residents from these contamination-affected areas, and that the Government should announce the name of an official who can be held accountable and provide a time line within which the project will be completed.
The four organisations have demanded that just as important as clean water is their demand for clean-up of the thousands of tons of buried and stored toxic wastes, and contaminated groundwater. They have said that the Government should not spend taxpayers’ money to provide water or clean-up the environment, but explore and execute options to hold the polluter – Union Carbide and its new owner Dow Chemical – responsible. They are urging the Government to initiate legal action against Dow Chemical’s subsidiaries in India to recover the expenses for addressing the Bhopal pollution and its fallouts.
On the 6th day of their fast, the Bhopal hunger strikers were joined today by six representatives of All India Federation of Trade Unions who fasted a day in solidarity with the Bhopalis. Eleven representatives from pollution-impacted communities in Cuddalore and Kodaikanal in Tamilnadu also arrived today in New Delhi to show their support to the Bhopalis.
The Bhopal activists are in New Delhi to demand clean water, clean up of contamination at the cost of the polluter, criminal action against the companies and individuals accused of causing the disaster, a ban on Union Carbide’s products, processes and technologies in India, the setting up of a national commission to execute medical and economic rehabilitation schemes, and the construction of a memorial with survivors’ participation.
For more information, contact: Nityanand Jayaraman – 9868474437
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