Tag Archives: actions and protests

Dec 3rd is ‘No Pesticides Day’: PAN calls for Paraquat ban

STOP Paraquat! On the occasion of global “No Pesticides Use Day” this December 3, the international Pesticide Action Network (PAN) calls for the global ban and phase out of the production and use of paraquat, one of the most dangerous and controversial herbicides in the world.

The international Pesticide Action-Network launched December 3 as the global “No Pesticides Use Day“ in commemoration of the world’s worst chemical disaster in 1984. Every year on December 3 campaigns are initiated in many countries to remind of the hazardous effects of pesticides on human health and environment.

This year, PAN AP and several partners are undertaking activities on December 3 to commemorate the Bhopal tragedy,and these are in solidarity with the BHOPAL DAY OF ACTION AGAINST CORPORATE CRIME.

PIC1

Joint PAN Press Release
December 2, 2003

STOP Paraquat!
On the occasion of global “No Pesticides Use Day” this December 3, the international Pesticide Action Network (PAN) calls for the global ban and phase out of the production and use of paraquat, one of the most dangerous and controversial herbicides in the world.

The non-selective herbicide paraquat is sold by Syngenta and other producers in more than 100 countries. Gramoxone(TN), manufactured by Syngenta, is the most common trade name for paraquat. Paraquat is extensively used on bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, palm oil, pineapple, rubber and sugar cane, both on plantations and by small-scale farmers.

Paraquat has been heavily criticized for the adverse impacts on workers since the 1960s. Globally, workers and farmers, who are regularly exposed to paraquat experience serious problems with their health. Paraquat is an extremely hazardous substance: it has been known to damage the lungs, heart, kidneys, adrenal glands, central nervous system, liver, muscles and spleen, causing multi-organ failure. The herbicide causes severe acute and long-term health problems such as severe dermatitis, second degree burns, nosebleeds, rapid heart rate, kidney failure, and respiratory failure. Some chronic effects have also been identified: an association with developmental and reproductive effects, as well as links to skin cancer and there is mounting evidence linking it to Parkinson’s disease. The high toxicity and lack of antidote leads to serious ill health, and even death, from exposure.

Studies have also indicated that paraquat has lethal effects on hares and birds, and is embryotoxic and teratogenic to frogs. It poses a risk to non-target terrestrial and aquatic plants, and readily binds to soil particles and hence accumulates in soils.

Due to these facts the notorious occupational poison paraquat has been on the PAN international list of “Dirty Dozen“ pesticides since 1985.

Conditions of use and realities in developing countries of the South—high temperature and humidity, lack of protective clothing, leaking knapsack sprayers, illiteracy, lack of facilities for washing, or medical treatment, and repeated exposure—compounds the concern that safe use of paraquat is not possible in these countries, in spite of ‘safety’ claims by the industry.

Because of its high toxicity, paraquat is already either banned, severely restricted or restricted in fourteen countries, including five EU member states and the United States of America.

“Last year Malaysia was the first Asian country to ban and phase out the use of paraquat. To prioritise global protection of human health and the environment, a world wide ban of the toxic herbicide paraquat has to follow now“, asserts Sarojeni V. Rengam, Executive Director of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific.

Unfortunately, the EU decided in October 2003 not to ban Paraquat. The European Commission is aware of the dangers of Paraquat, but nevertheless had approved its use, ignoring growing number of member states who openly rejected an EU-wide approval of paraquat, postponing a vote at the last four committee meetings. PAN has emphasised that this controversial decision was made in the European context, and therefore cannot have any implication for other regions, especially developing countries.

On November 24, 2003, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe, PAN Asia and the Pacific and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, sent an official ‘Open Letter’ of protest to the European Commission, calling on the Standing Committee to take urgent action following the inclusion of paraquat to the Annex 1 of the Pesticides Authorization Directive 91/414. The Commission’s authorisation of 3 October 2003 is being used to challenge regulatory decisions taken to protect human health in other countries, and to demand registration even when local conditions will pose significant risks to pesticide users.

Due to the serious health and ecological threats from paraquat use, on the occasion of the global “No Pesticide Use Day”, December 3, the international Pesticide Action Network (PAN) demands that:

 Syngenta, the main producer of paraquat, stops the production of paraquat
 Syngenta takes full responsibility and assumes liability for the severe health effects on communities resulting from paraquat use
 The authorities in all countries ban the use of paraquat
 Paraquat be replaced with safer and more sustainable pest control methods

Note:

• For the international PAN Position Paper on paraquat please see: http://www.panap.net

It is also available here: DOC1

• To view the joint Open Letter to the European Commission see: http://www.panap.net

December 3 – Reminder of the pesticide catastrophe 1984 in Bhopal
The international Pesticide Action-Network launched December 3 as the global “No Pesticides Use Day“ in commemoration of the world’s worst chemical disaster in 1984. That day in Bhopal (India) a pesticide factory exploded, releasing a toxic gas that caused more than 500,000 injured and 20,000 deaths in the years since. Every year on December 3 campaigns are initiated in many countries to remind of the hazardous effects of pesticides on human health and environment.

This year, PAN AP and several partners are undertaking activities on December 3 to commemorate the Bhopal tragedy,and these are in solidarity with the BHOPAL DAY OF ACTION AGAINST CORPORATE CRIME also taking palce on December 3, 2003, to Take Action Against Corporate Crime on the 19th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. For more information visit: https://www.bhopal.net or Email: globalaction@bhopal.net

For more information, contact:

PAN Africa : Abou Thiam, panafrica@pan-africa.sn, tel: 00221-825-49-14

PAN Asia – Pacific (www.panap.net ): Sarojeni Rengam, panap@panap.net, tel: 0060-4-657-0271

PAN Germany (www.pan-germany.org): Carina Weber, presse@pan-germany.org, tel: 0049-40-3991910-0

PAN Latin America – RAPAL (www.rap-al.org): Maria-Elena Rozas, rapal@rapal.cl, tel: 0056-2-3416742

PAN North America (www.panna.org): Monica Moore, panna@igc.org, tel: 001-415-981-1771

PAN UK (www.pan-uk.org): Barbara Dinham, admin@pan-uk.org, tel: 0044-207-274-88-95

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36 years on, outraged students again unite against Dow

Reviving memories of the fierce Vietnam War protests at universities in the 1960’s, students at 20 colleges across the United States are once again organizing against Dow, this time united in their demand that Dow accept its moral and legal responsibilities in Bhopal. They’ve banded together to form Students for Bhopal, a national network that is planning campaigns against Dow until it accepts all the demands of the Bhopal survivors. “Students here are like students elsewhere,” said Janine Jacques, one of the student campaigners at Brown University. “When we heard about what was happening in Bhopal, we were outraged. We decided that we had to act.”

The student protests of 1967-8 afflict Dow’s reputation even now. Today’s students are also busy driving Dow’s expensively crafted image as an environmental steward and warm-hearted corporate citizen to the wall. Such as students at Brown, who aren’t buying it; they dressed up as the “Dow Grim Reaper” this past Halloween and set out to “kill” their fellow students on the college green. “We feel that Halloween is the perfect time to highlight the unholy alliance that Dow and Death seem to have made,” declared Mika Nagasaki, a sophomore at Brown. “Dow maximizes its profits by contributing to the deaths of thousands of people throughout the world, and Death is only too happy to collect these victims before their time. Dow’s legacy of contamination and death must come to an end; by refusing to take action in Bhopal, Dow is condemning thousands more to an untimely end.”

Students at other colleges were also making the connection between Dow and Death this past Halloween. Students at the University of Michigan, the University of Maryland–College Park, the University of California–Berkeley, and Wheaton also participated in the Halloween Day of Action. Over 30 colleges are expected to participate in the December 3rd Global Day of Action Against Corporate Crime.

Students for Bhopal has been organizing a series of campaigns against Dow Chemical, many of which parallel the student campaigns that plagued Dow during the Vietnam War. During the late ’60s and early ’70s, thousands of students forced Dow off of their college campuses-sometimes violently-because of its production of Agent Orange and Napalm for the US military. Dow’s steadfast refusal to take any responsibility for Bhopal is leading many students to question whether the company’s behavior has ever changed. Many are deciding that they don’t want their Universities associated with Dow, financially or otherwise.

“Is it possible to ethically invest in a corporation that refuses to remediate the impacts of its own pollution, to the detriment of thousands of lives? I don’t think so,” said Clayton Perry, one of the Bhopal organizers at Occidental College in California. “Nor is it really fair that Dow donates millions of dollars every year to colleges and universities across the country, while refusing to spend a cent in Bhopal. We don’t want our colleges accepting Dow’s blood money.”

“Many students have never heard of Bhopal,” said Ryan Bodanyi, the Student Coordinator for ICJB. “But once they do they become outraged, and they want to become involved. It’s amazing how quickly the student campaign is spreading; if Dow continues to dawdle and delay I think that they’ll have a huge fight on their hands before too long.”

To find out more about Students for Bhopal, visit www.studentsforbhopal.org

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Coca Cola scandal deepens, killings begin

As published in The Statesman

12 August 2003
HEAT ON COLD DRINKS

By ARJUN SEN
“THE Coca-Cola company exists to benefit and refresh everyone it touches,” says the home page of the world’s largest soft drink company’s website. But many in India, and in the 199 other countries that Coke is sold in, are finding out the truth the hard way.

Coke has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons; the latest being the 5 August report of the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi. A CSE test found 12 soft-drink brands of Coke and its global rival Pepsi contained pesticides and insecticides in excess of the European Economic Commission’s limit. The Parliament’s immediate reaction: ban on the brands on its premises.

On 8 August, a West Bengal government report said sludge and liquid effluents from Coke’s plants at Dankuni, Taratala and Jalpaiguri and Pepsi’s at Narendrapur contained toxic metals and the carcinogen cadmium.

On 6 August, Kerala State Pollution Control Board had confirmed that Coke’s bottling plant had indeed been polluting the groundwater and agricultural land in and around its Palakkad plant.

Six months ago, CSE tests had found pesticides in leading packaged water brands, including those produced by Coke and Pepsi.

These bombshells followed media reports in the UK and in India of the scorching and environmentally disastrous impact of Coke’s operations in several regions in India; of allegedly rigging marketing tests in the USA and using slush funds to boost equipment sales; of reportedly
hiring Right-wing death squads to eliminate trade union organisers in Columbia and Guatemala; of causing environmental damage in Panama and of neglecting health problems of its employees in Africa.

While reports of pesticides’ and insecticides’ presence in Coke and Pepsi may now deter consumers from enjoying the soft-drinks, people living in and around Coke’s bottling plants in India have been feeling the heat in a different way. In Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, people have been protesting against Coke’s bottling plants because they’ve depleted groundwater level and damaged the environment.

Villagers of Palakkad’s Plachimada village in Kerala had been agitating against Coke’s bottling plant for several months but their plight drew global attention only recently after BBC Radio 4’s Face The Facts expose. Presenter John Waite visited Coke’s Plachimada plant after villagers complained of falling groundwater level in the area after Coke had started drawing it in huge quantities. Waite carried the samples of water and wastes sold by Coke as soil conditioner (but used by local farmers as fertiliser) back to the UK, where laboratory tests showed that they contained dangerous levels of cadmium. Tests at University of Exeter too showed the material was useless as a fertiliser and contained a number of toxic metals, including lead.

But the company has been denying any wrongdoing. Coke vice-president in India Sunil Gupta told the BBC that the fertiliser didn’t pose any risk. “We have scientific evidence to prove it is absolutely safe and we have never had any complaints.”

But Plachimada’s villagers have a different story to tell. Three years ago, the little patch of land in the green, picturesque rolling hills of Palakkad yielded 50 sacks of rice and 1,500 coconuts a year. It provided work for dozens of labourers. Then Coke arrived and built a 40-acre bottling plant nearby. In his last harvest, Shahul Hameed, owner of a small holding, could manage only five sacks of rice and just 200 coconuts. His irrigation wells have run dry, thanks to Coke drawing up to 1.5 million litres of water daily through its deep wells to bottle Coke, Fanta, Sprite and the drink the locals call, without irony, ”Thumbs-Up”.

But the cruellest twist is that while the plant bottles a mineral water, local people – who can never afford it – are now being forced to walk up to 10 kilometre twice a day for a pot of drinking water. The turbid, brackish water that remains at the bottom of their wells contains too high a level of dissolved salts to drink, cook with or even wash in.

The disruption in life because of depletion of groundwater and contamination by pollutants have forced villagers to picket the factory for the past 470 odd days. Over 300 people have been held for demonstrating against Coke and blackening its hoardings.

On 7 April, the Perumatty panchayat revoked the factory’s licence to alleviate the villagers’ sufferings despite losing almost half of its annual income of Rs 7,00,000. But Coke’s lawyers got the suspension order revoked by appealing to the local self-government department.

Coke could operate its plant till 6 August – but on that day KPCB made its report public, confirming the existence of carcinogenic contaminants in the waste. Now, the government has postponed the hearing, saying it’s “necessary to… (get) SPCB’s report” confirmed.

This is actually a David and Goliath battle: some of the world’s poorest people versus a multinational giant. The Centre classifies many of the suffering villagers as primitive tribals or Dalits. Few took notice when the villagers first began complaining of the changes in the quantity and quality of well water. But their complaints mounted, for they not only lost their water but, with the dried-out farms closing, also their jobs. A reasonable number of crippled labourers would be 10,000.

Coke, of course, denies responsibility for all this, and it has the support the local authorities; they argue that the company creates jobs. Politicians even threatened the agitationists with “dire consequences” if they didn’t stop.

Though Coke claims to have carried out the mandatory Environment Impact Assessment report before setting up the plant, none so far has seen the report. Waite’s repeated requests to the company to produce a copy of the report met with failure.

In UP, sustained protests against Coke have prompted the Central Pollution Control Board to initiate a probe into the pollution being caused allegedly by Bharat Coca-Cola Bottling North East Private Ltd – a bottling arm of Coke – in Mehdiganj, 20 km from Varanasi. Trouble started in early May when a court found the firm guilty of not paying land revenue worth more than Rs 15 lakh. An equal amount of penalty – under Section 47 (A) of the Indian Stamps Act – has also been imposed on the company. The case, filed in April 2001 by the UP government, was the outcome of lobbying by protesting local residents. They allege the plant has been discharging hazardous wastes and heavy consumption of groundwater has depleted the water level, from 15 feet to 40 feet. Result: severe drinking water scarcity.

In Maharashtra, villagers of Kudus in Thane district now have to travel long distances in search of water because it has dried up, thanks to Coke. Villagers have began questioning the subsidised water, land and tax breaks that Coke gets from the state, only to leave them more thirsty. A man was detained for protesting against Coke’s pipeline, built to carry water from a river to its plant.

In Tamil Nadu, more than 7,000 people gathered in Sivaganga recently to protest against a proposed Coke plant.

Protests are also building up against the sale of major Cauvery tributary Bhavani by Tamil Nadu government to Poonam Beverages for bottling Coke’s packaged water, Kinley. Despite the state facing drought conditions, the government effected the sale. At places the ground water level is beyond reach resulting in water riots and even killings.

In Rajasthan, villagers of Kala Dera near Jaipur have been protesting against the fall in the groundwater level after a Coke plant started drawing water. After the firm set up a bottling plant, the area’s wells and ponds dried up. ”The water level has fallen by more than 150 feet in the area . . . ,” said a villager. Locals have submitted a memorandum to the chief minister, demanding the plant be shifted.

But the unfazed $-20-billion, Atlanta-based soft drink giant claims “local communities have welcomed our business as a good corporate neighbour.” But this should not come as a surprise, for Coke is accustomed to having its way with governments. Under the rules of entry into India, Coke was to divest 49 per cent of its equity stake within five years. But now the government seems to have given in to the soft drink giant’s pressure; it’s on the verge of changing its
policy to suit Coke’s interest. Will Indian investors own 49 per cent of Coke’s operations in India, but have no vote whatsoever?

Remember Enron! In Coke’s case too, the US government played a significant role. US ambassador to India Robert Blackwill wrote to Prime Minister’s principal secretary Brajesh Mishra: “I would like to bring to your attention, and seek your help in resolving, a potentially serious investment problem of some significance to both our countries. The case involves Coca-Cola, one of the largest single foreign investors in India.”

But around the world, Coke has increasingly become the target of local communities’ ire around because of its disregard for man and his environment. The world’s most well recognised brand name’s Latin American bottler is facing trial for allegedly hiring Right-wing paramilitary forces (death squads) to kill and intimidate trade union organisers, especially from SINALTRAINAL. The suit has been brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act, that allows corporations to be sued in the USA for crimes committed overseas.

Holding Coke responsible for the harms it causes is nothing new. In May 2003, Coca-Cola de Panama was fined US $300,000 for polluting Matasnillo river in that country.

Coke may not go the Enron way – for it is not based on assumptions and speculation. But both share some uncanny similarities: Enron and Coke top the US foreign direct investment (FDI) list in India. Enron’s Indian operations (Dabhol Power Corporation, joint venture with Bechtel and General Electric and others) was the largest single FDI in India and became the target of activists across the country because of various irregularities. Enron was forced to shut down its Indian operations long before the financial scandal broke out in the USA and brought the entire company down.

The company that started life in 1886 as the result of a search for a headache remedy may soon join Enron if it fails to stop giving people more headaches than it can cure.

(The author is former News Editor of The Economic Times.)

The history of Coca Cola

Coca-Cola used to contain cocaine. Now it just contains chlorpyrifos, malathion, DDT etc etc (at least in India)

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Mythological beings descend on Kings Lynn

KINGS LYNN 13 MAY 2003. Two mysterious beings appeared this morning at the Dow Chemicals factory in the tiny, remote English town of Kings Lynn, Norfolk. “We are from the UK branch of the ICJB and we come bringing a gift” they told plant managers who stared at them in wonder and said, “We have heard of you. You delivered soil and water.” Yea verily. The long arm of the ICJB reacheth out even unto the furthest ends of Dow’s realm of chemical despair.

Continue reading Mythological beings descend on Kings Lynn

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Global hunger strike begins

Bapuji, if you could see the terrible things that are being done to the poor, we know that you would be fasting beside us.

WASHINGTON DC, 12 MAY. Watched by the statue of Mahatma Gandhi outside the Indian Embassy in Washington DC, the three hunger strikers today marked the end of their personal fast by calling on supporters and justice campaigners around the world to take over and fast in relays from now until the 19th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster. STATEMENT AND APPEAL HEREJOIN THE GLOBAL FAST FOR JUSTICE HERE

BHOPAL ACTIVISTS END HUNGER STRIKE ON 12TH DAY, LAUNCH GLOBAL RELAY FAST

Washington, D.C. 12 May, 2003 — Two women survivors and a long-time Bhopal activist today ended their 12-day hunger strike for justice in Bhopal at the Gandhi Statue in front of the Indian Embassy today in Washington, D.C. They called upon supporters worldwide to sign on to the Worldwide Relay Hunger Strike for Justice in Bhopal and keep it alive until the 19th Bhopal anniversary on December 3, 2003.

More than 40 people, including representatives from PACE International Union, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, D.C. Collective, Code Pink Women for Peace and Association for India’s Development attended the gathering, and issued statements in solidarity.

Mr. Anil Chowdhry, Minister for Personal and Community Affairs, met the Bhopal delegation and assured them that he would communicate to the Government of India their demands, extradition of Anderson and inclusion of Dow Chemical as an accused in the Bhopal criminal case.

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, a global coalition led by survivors, declared December 3 as the Global Day of Action Against Corporate Crime and has appealed to trade unions, public interest organizations and those protesting the abuses of globalization to observe the day by organizing activities to fight for justice against corporate crimes in their localities.

“Justice delayed is justice denied. The Indian Government should expedite the extradition of Warren Anderson and move rapidly to include Dow in the criminal case against Union Carbide in Bhopal,” said Rashida Bee, president of the Bhopal Gas-affected Women Stationery Workers Association, a trade union that is a member of the global coalition. Despite repeated orders by the Bhopal district court to expedite the trial, the Indian Government has been reluctant to bring UCC and Anderson to justice fueling speculation that it has succumbed to pressure from the US multinational.

On May 8, the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal confronted Dow Chemical, the new owners of Union Carbide, outside its annual shareholders meeting in Midland, Michigan. Addressing shareholders, Dow chairman William Stavropoulos stated that Union Carbide – a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical – does not face criminal charges in the Bhopal court. However, as recently as April 9, 2003, the Central Bureau of Investigation had indicated to the court that it will submit a report on including Dow as an accused in addition to Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) in the ongoing criminal case. In 1986, UCC, its former chairman Warren Anderson and ten others were charged with manslaughter among other crimes. Neither Anderson nor UCC have appeared in court to face trial.

“In merging with UCC, Dow has acquired a fugitive from justice. By failing to subject itself to the Indian legal system, Dow is trying to evade its responsibilities and has exposed its callous disregard for the law of the land,” said Satinath Sarangi of ICJB. Sarangi, along with Bee and her colleague Champa Devi, began an indefinite fast from New York’s financial district on May 1.

Having handed over the hunger strike to supporters around the world, the Bhopal delegation will travel around the United States raising awareness about Dow’s crimes in Bhopal and build resistance against
the company. More than 200 people from 19 countries have already joined the global fast.

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal is a global coalition led by the survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal. Billed as the world’s worst industrial disaster, the Union Carbide gas leak killed 8000 within three days of the disaster and exposed more than 500,000. ICJB calls upon Dow, the new owners of Union Carbide, to face longstanding criminal charges against Carbide in India, release toxicological information regarding the poison gases, arrange for long-term medical rehabilitation and monitoring, provide economic rehabilitation and social support for survivors’ children, and clean up the toxic wastes and contaminated groundwater in and around Carbide’s old factory site. The demand to the Government of India is to ensure that Dow is held accountable.

For more information, visit: www.bhopal.net
Contact: Nityanand Jayaraman. Cell: 520 906 5216.
Email: nity68@vsnl.com
Krishnaveni G. Cell: 832.444.1731. Email: krishnaveni_g@sbcglobal.net

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