September 24-26: 6th Annual North American Bhopal Conference

Participation and Enthusiasm Mark the 6th Annual Bhopal Conference at MIT

Aquene Freechild talks grassroots

Cambridge, Massachusetts—The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) hosted its 6th Annual North American Conference this past weekend to discuss ongoing health and environmental issues in Bhopal, India.  To this day acute and chronic toxic contamination from the disaster has left 25,000 dead, and over 500,000 affected.  Dow Chemical Corporation (Midland, MI), who acquired Union Carbide in 2001, refuses to clean up the abandoned pesticide plant that has caused a growing environmental and public health crisis.

About 30 concerned activists from throughout the U.S., and a couple from Europe, met on MIT’s campus to learn about the Bhopal disaster from field experts.  Attendees now aim to mobilize their own community members on the human rights issue.

ICJB asserts that “we all live in Bhopal.”  Keynote speaker Gary Cohen, Director of the Environmental Health Fund and Healthcare Without Harm, echoed this reality when he said, “the same chemicals are in our veins.”  In other words, toxic contamination occurs on a smaller scale all over the world and even in our own communities.

Other highlights from the weekend include a great introduction to Media & Messaging from Taryn Hallweaver (Toxics Action) and an engaging panel on campaign strategies with Merle Ratner (Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign) and Sylvia Broude (Toxics Action). Rajan Sharma, U.S. lawyer, gave a strong overview of current litigation against Union Carbide and its owner, Dow Chemical.  Nityanand Jayaraman and Rachna Dhingra joined the conference via Skype to give an update from the ground in India. Other sessions included everything from Bhopal’s health issues, to building local campaigns.  Friday evening brought the first-ever private film screening of Max Carlson’s Bhopali.  The film beautifully captured the tenacity of Bhopal survivors, and was very well received.

View trailer here.

To this day only 10% of Bhopalis have access to uncontaminated water; toxins from the pesticide plant are spreading into the city’s water table, causing cancers, chronic diseases, and birth defects.  ICJB would like the Obama administration to address the Bhopal disaster when he meets with Indian officials this November.

Stretch break!

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