Tag Archives: United Nations

European Parliament calls for UN special rapporteurs on Bhopal

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution calling for
UN special rapporteurs to visit Bhopal in order to examine and assess the effects of Union Carbide’s activities, including the 1984 disaster and subsequent poisoning of water by toxic chemicals abandoned by the company in its now-derelict factory.

The resolution calls on the Governments of India and Madhya Pradesh to ensure the prompt decontamination and clean up of the Union Carbide factory site, and to ensure a regular and adequate supply of safe water to affected communities as ordered by the Indian Supreme Court and to ensure adequate and accessible healthcare for all survivors.

The parliament also called for a reassessment of the compensation received by victims under the 1989 settlement.

The resolution is to be forwarded to the Governments of India and Madhya Pradesh and to the Dow Chemical Company.

Draft resolution here.

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UN Urged To Help Rehabilitate Bhopal

The Bhopal delegation visited the United Nations today to urge the organisation to end its “20-year long discriminatory stand” by intervening in Bhopal’s continuing humanitarian disaster. “UN agencies such as WHO, ILO and UNICEF remain silent as people continue to die at the rate of one a day, and babies are born with birth defects. The only reason for this is that Bhopal was not a natural disaster but a disaster caused by the deliberate negligence of a powerful corporation,” said Rashida today. “Is this an indication of the UN’s willingness to sacrifice its mandate in the face of corporate might?”

Champa and Rashida met with Jose Antonio Ocampo, undersecretary general of Economic & Social Affairs, to remind him of “the total absence of initiatives by any of the UN agencies towards rehabilitation of health, economic status, environment or child welfare for the more than 500,000 survivors suffering as a result of exposure”. They also pointed out that Dow’s actions in Bhopal violate some of the basic rights enshrined in the U.N. Charter and that agencies such as the U.N. Commission on Human Rights have done nothing to bring the fugitives to justice. Five areas that UN agencies can make a critical contribution in Bhopal were outlined:

1. UN HCHR to present a report on the ongoing human rights violations in Bhopal;
2. UNICEF to research and monitor children of exposed parents, and initiate rehabilitation efforts;
3. ILO to assess loss of work capacity among survivors, and initiate schemes for economic rehabilitation;
4. WHO to initiate epidemiological and clinical studies, and help develop suitable treatment protocol;
5. UN Sub commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to use Dow Chemical and Union Carbide in the context of Bhopal as a case to develop recommendations for legally binding mechanisms for holding corporations accountable for their impacts on human rights and the environment.

20 YEARS LATER: SURVIVORS OF BHOPAL GAS LEAK URGE UNITED NATIONS AGENCIES TO PROVIDE HUMANITARIAN SUPPORT TO ADDRESS ONGOING IMPACT OF WORLD’S WORST INDUSTRIAL DISASTER

New York, April 29th, 2004 — Today two survivors of the December 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India, will meet Mr. Jose Antonio Ocampo, undersecretary general of Economic & Social Affairs, to urge him to end the 20-year long discriminatory stand taken by the UN against the Bhopal victims, and initiate a program of relief and rehabilitation for the survivors. The survivors, Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla, currently in US to receive the prestigious Goldman Prize, will remind Mr. Ocampo of the total absence of initiatives by any of the UN agencies towards rehabilitation of health, economic status, environment or child welfare for the more than 500,000 survivors suffering as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals.

According to the two women leaders, the UN’s failure to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the site of the world’s worst industrial disaster stands in sharp contrast to their response to the plight of natural disasters victims. “UN agencies such as WHO, ILO and UNICEF remain silent as people continue to die at the rate of one a day, and babies are born with birth defects. The only reason for this is that Bhopal was not a natural disaster but a disaster caused by the deliberate negligence of a powerful corporation,” said Rashida Bee. “Is this an indication of the UN’s willingness to sacrifice its mandate in the face of corporate might?”

The 1984 disaster, which has killed more than 20,000 people to date, has left a trail of health and economic problems in its wake. A 2003 study published in the Journal of American Medical Association found that male children born to gas-exposed parents were lighter, thinner, and shorter and had smaller head circumference compared to other children, confirming the impact of the toxic gases on the second generation. Toxic wastes abandoned by Union Carbide in and around its factory site remain strewn in Bhopal. Poisons from these wastes have leached into the groundwater used by more than 20,000 people living adjacent to the factory, and a recent study by Sambhavna Trust found that people consuming contaminated water suffer from lower hemoglobin levels in blood, an indication of the effects of Trichlorobenzene, a Carbide chemical found in the water.

Union Carbide, and its new owner Dow Chemical, have refused to assist in clean-up and other rehabilitation, even while they continue to evade summons to appear for trial in the ongoing criminal case in the Bhopal court. Subsequent to the disaster, Union Carbide Corporation was charged with manslaughter. Union Carbide was declared “fugitive from justice” in 1992 by the Indian court, and is an offender in the eyes of the Indian Government. “Union Carbide and Dow’s actions violate some of the most basic rights enshrined in the UN charter even while agencies such as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights remain silent,” said Champa Devi Shukla.

“That the perpetrators of the world’s worst industrial disaster have evaded criminal and civil liabilities, and escaped the jurisdiction of Indian courts by taking refuge in the United States re-enforces the need for a legally binding mechanism on transnational corporations,” said Kenny Bruno, Campaign Coordinator for EarthRights International. Bruno also coordinates the Alliance for a Corporate Free UN, which highlights increasing collusion between the UN and TNCs. “It is high time for the UN to learn the lessons of Bhopal.”

The visiting Bhopal delegation will present the UN with a memorandum seeking action on the following points:

1. UN HCHR to present a report on the ongoing human rights violations in Bhopal;
2. UNICEF to research and monitor children of exposed parents, and initiate rehabilitation efforts;
3. ILO to assess loss of work capacity among survivors, and initiate schemes for economic rehabilitation
4. WHO to initiate epidemiological and clinical studies, and help develop suitable treatment protocol;
5. UN Sub commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to use Dow Chemical and Union Carbide in the context of Bhopal as a case to develop recommendations for legally binding mechanisms for holding corporations accountable for their impacts on human rights and the environment.

CONTACT: Riptide Communications (212) 260-5000

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Inter Press News Agency
POLITICS:
Bhopal Survivors Urge U.N. to Help

Haider Rizvi

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 30 (IPS) – Disappointed after 20 years of appeals to courts and governments, survivors of the Union Carbide gas disaster in India are urging United Nations agencies to start relief and rehabilitation work in their hometown Bhopal, where hundreds of thousands of people still suffer from exposure to toxic material.

“The conditions are so bad that people think it would have been better to die on that night,” Rushed Bee, one of the survivors told reporters Thursday before meeting U.N. officials. “People continue to die at the rate of one a day. Yet the U.N. agencies, such as UNICEF, WHO and ILO remain silent.”

Bee, 48, lost six of her family members as a result of the Bhopal tragedy, when 40 tons of lethal methyl isocyante (MIC) gas leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide plant. She and another survivor, Champa Dev Sukla, 52, said the United Nations has failed to act in Bhopal because the incident was not a natural disaster.

“Is this an indication of the U.N.’s willingness to sacrifice its mandate in the face of corporate might?” she asked.

Earlier this month, both Bee and Sukla won the 2004 Goldman Award for their activism. They are now touring the United States to bring the Bhopal case to the attention of U.S. lawmakers and citizens.

More than 12,000 people died as a direct result of the 1984 gas leak. The incident has left a trail of health problems, as thousands of tons of toxic waste abandoned by Union Carbide in and around its factory site remain in the city.

Health activists say poisons from the wastes have leached into the groundwater used by more than 20,000 people living close to the abandoned factory, and another 100,000 people are seriously ill.

“People are forced to drink this contaminated water,” said Dr Sathinath Sarangi, who works at a clinic in the disaster-ridden area. “There are many health problems. Lack of blood is very common. Children are born with missing fingers, missing pallets and other deformities.”

Last year, the ‘Journal of the American Medical Association’ published a study that found male children born to gas-exposed parents in Bhopal were lighter, thinner, shorter and had on average smaller head circumferences than other children, confirming the impact of the toxic gas on the second generation.

“Children are born with cancer because their mothers’ milk is poisoned,” said Bee, her voice choking with emotion. “These children know when they are going to die and we don’t know what to tell them.”

Bee and other survivors say they want the World Health Organisation (WHO) to start epidemiological and clinical studies of the residents and to help develop sustainable treatment methods. They are also asking the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to research and monitor children of exposed parents and to start rehabilitation work.

Union Carbide and its new owner Dow Chemical have refused to help clean up and rehabilitation efforts at Bhopal. Dow continues to evade summons to appear in the on-going criminal case in a city court, maintaining it has no moral or legal obligation for the incident.

Subsequent to the disaster, Union Carbide was charged with manslaughter, and its former chairman Warren Anderson still faces criminal charges in India for “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”.

In 1989, the Indian Supreme Court ordered Union Carbide to pay 470 million dollars to the Indian government. Activists say the amount is insufficient to meet the basic needs of survivors, including acute medical care, lost wages and compensation for long-term disability and clean up of the site. Most survivors received less than 500 dollars from that judgement.

Unhappy with the Indian government’s performance, Bee and other survivors took their legal fights to U.S. courtrooms. With the support of advocacy groups, they filed a class-action lawsuit in New York in 1999 against Union Carbide and Anderson, seeking damages to cover medical costs and clean up of the site.

Last month, an appeals court held that U.S. courts could hear the suit and consider requests from Bhopal survivors for redemption of contaminated soil and groundwater. Activists say it is a small legal victory against Dow, but feel frustrated that the legal process has taken so many years.

“Twenty years is a long time. I don’t understand why they (Dow) are not being punished,” said Bee. “Why are we being punished? Why do our children have to wait for so long for justice?”

Activists say Dow’s actions violate some of the basic rights enshrined in the U.N. Charter, and charge that agencies like the U.N. Commission on Human Rights have done nothing to bring them to justice. They are urging the commission to make an example of the Bhopal case and take steps to hold the corporation legally accountable for its impact on human rights and the environment.

“Large corporations continue to manipulate the justice system. Like Carbide they do not want not be held liable in the home countries (for human rights violations, nor (they say) should they be held liable in their host countries,” said Kenny Bruno of the U.S.-based Earth Rights International, an advocacy group.

“Yet they can sign up to the U.N. Global Compact.”

U.N. officials defend the Compact, a project established in 2000 to encourage corporate social responsibility, but do not hesitate to admit that some companies that have pledged to follow the Compact’s nine principles have also been accused of violating labour, environmental or human rights.

“It’s a voluntary participation,” says Georg Kell, who leads the Compact. “It’s a long, long process.”

Aware of growing criticism against the U.N. institution, Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called a meeting of the Compact in June.

Whether U.N. agencies decide to take action in Bhopal, survivors-turned-activists from the disaster area say they will continue their international campaign until justice is done for the city’s people.

“If Union Carbide is not punished, if justice is not done,” said Bee, “then I fear there will be more Bhopals in this world”.

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