Tag Archives: water contamination

Dow’s attempt to deceive NDTV: notes for editors

NDTV (New Delhi Television) one of India’s prime news channels, yesterday received a letter from Dow spokesman Scott Wheeler claiming that the case to hold Dow responsible for cleaning up Bhopal had been concocted by “activists”. “There are some,” Wheeler wrote, “who continue to try to affix responsibility for the Bhopal tragedy to Dow, but the fact is that Dow never owned or operated the facility in Bhopal.”

There are actually two Bhopal tragedies. The first was the 1984 gas leak. Nobody is trying to hold Dow responsible for that (although it does have the responsibility of producing its subsidiary Union Carbide Corporation to face unanswered criminal charges). Dow’s repeated assertions that it “never owned or operated the facility in Bhopal” are a red herring, attempting to focus and confine attention to the 1984 gas leak and to avoid drawing attention to the second tragedy.

Bhopal’s second disaster

Within five years of the gas leak, with hundreds of thousands in the city still seriously ill, Union Carbide Corporation was aware of a second disaster, which it tried to keep very quiet. This was the lethal contamination of soil and water caused by toxic chemicals leaking from the factory site and from huge open air “solar ponds” a short distance from the site. Carbide’s silence lasted ten years until in 1999 a Greenpeace report revealed the extent, nature and seriousness of the contamination. During those years of silence families already decimated by the gas were poisoned again, children were being born malformed, or brain-damaged. In the decade since the Greenpeace report, the contamination has grown more severe.

Fate of a goat, unwary enough to drink from a solar pond
[pullquote] The rate of birth defects in the parts of Bhopal where the water is contaminated is ten times higher than in the rest of India.[/pullquote] The water supply of 30,000 people is poisoned. Cancer-causing and mutagenic chemicals are present in drinking water, blood and the milk of nursing mothers. The rate of birth defects in the affected areas is running at ten time the rate for the rest of India. For this Union Carbide Corporation is liable and Dow Chemical as owner of Union Carbide, inherits that liability.

Its not just activists who want Dow to clean up Bhopal, Mr Wheeler. So do members of the US Congress, UK House of Commons, European Parliament, Scottish Parliament, academics, writers, journalists, film-makers, actors, musicians, trade unions, students, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, hundreds of other NGOs and huge numbers of ordinary decent people worldwide.

Dow’s PR and the facts it is designed to obscure

Here for the benefit of anyone who ever has to deal with a Dow public affairs spokesperson are the facts the statements are designed to conceal. Dow’s statements to NDTV are given in italics, the facts in bold type. Please follow the links for more detail and for source documents.

Dow says: The solution to this problem . . . rests in the hands of the Indian Central and state governments.

Fact: On June 28th, 2004, the Indian government wrote to the Southern District Court of New York, where the survivors’ lawsuit concerning contamination in Bhopal had been reinstated by the US appeals court. “Pursuant to the ‘polluter pays’ principle recognized by both the United States and India, Union Carbide should bear all of the financial burden and cost for the purpose of environmental clean-up and remediation. The Union of India and the State Government of Madhya Pradesh shall not bear any financial burden for this purpose.”

Dow says: Remediation of the Bhopal plant site is under the oversight of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh in Jabalpur. We respect the court and the efforts that it is making to direct the remediation plan for the plant site, which is being funded by the state and central governments . . . The government of Madhya Pradesh, which today controls the site, is working to get the site cleaned up and Dow is hopeful that they will be allowed to follow through with their plans.

Fact: The government of Madhya Pradesh said it would ensure the remediation work got done, not that it would assume liability for the mess, nor pay for it: ‘Under the Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rule 1989 594(E) Section 3 Sub section 1 and Section 4(1) whoever has produced the contaminated waste, it is his responsibility to decontaminate it. . . As per rules it is the responsibility of Union Carbide Bhopal to pay for all the expenses being i[n]curred on the above work.’ Letter from Government of Madhya Pradesh to the High Court in Jabalpur.

Dow says: In 1991, the Indian Supreme Court upheld and affirmed that settlement as complete and final. Union Carbide has no further legal responsibility for the matter.

Fact: In its 1991 judgement the Supreme Court, while upholding part of the settlement, modified it to reinstate criminal charges against Union Carbide Corporation, its then-CEO Warren Anderson and Union Carbide Eastern. These defendants refused to accept the jurisdiction of the court and never showed up for trial. Union Carbide Corporation, now wholly owned by Dow Chemical is still officially a fugitive from justice in India. As Union Carbide’s owner, Dow ought to ensure that its subsidiary answers the outstanding criminal charges.

Furthermore, the settlement did not cover the contamination. In its letter to the New York court of June 28, 2004 the Government of India made this very clear: “Finally, it is the official position of the Union of India that the previous settlement of claims concerning the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster between Union Carbide and Union of India has no legal bearing on or relation whatsoever to the environmental contamination issues . . .”

Dow says: The Dow Chemical Company has never owned or operated the facility in Bhopal nor does Dow have responsibility for any liability related to Bhopal . . . The Dow Chemical Company entered the picture well after the settlement between the Government of India and Union Carbide and Union Carbide India Limited and well after Union Carbide sold all Indian assets and was no longer doing business in India.[pullquote right]The Ministry of Law…has observed that irrespective of the manner in which UCC (Union Carbide Corporation) has merged or has been acquired by Dow Chemical, if there is any legal liability it would have to be borne by Dow Chemical.[/pullquote]Fact: On February 2, 2008 an opinion from India’s Ministry of Law was passed on to the Prime Minister’s Office: “The department has consulted the Ministry of Law, which has observed that irrespective of the manner in which UCC (Union Carbide Corporation) has merged or has been acquired by Dow Chemical, if there is any legal liability it would have to be borne by Dow Chemical.”

NDTV has commented on this in an article published today.

Dow says: When Dow acquired the shares of Union Carbide Corporation in 2001, it was with the understanding that Union Carbide had settled its civil liability with the Government of India and that the Government and Indian Courts honour their decisions and their commitments.

Dow knew perfectly well that the criminal liability of Union Carbide Corporation with regard to Bhopal remained unresolved. The Supreme Court had revived Union Carbide Corporations’s criminal liability in its judgement of 1991, ten years before the Dow-Carbide merger. Neither Dow nor Union Carbide declared the unresolved criminal liability in their SEC merger submission.

Union Carbide Corporation, has yet to answer the criminal charges and for 18 years has refused to accept the authority of the court. This is the same Union Carbide which in 1986, after persuading a New York judge to transfer the criminal proceedings from the US to India, bound itself to accept the authority of Indian courts. It is not the Indian courts, but Union Carbide and Dow which have refused to honour their decisions and commitments.

Additionally, UCIL – the company that controlled the site when the tragic events took place – exists today in the form of Eveready Industries India Limited.

At the time of the gas leak, UCIL was owned by Union Carbide Corporation, which retained a 50.9% shareholding in order to keep control of the Indian subsidiary. This majority shareholding had been threatened by the Indian governments introduction of the FERA act, 1973, which reduced foreign equity holdings in Indian companies to a maximum of 40%. To get round this, Union Carbide Corporation proposed to the Indian government that it would begin manufacturing MIC (methyl isocyanate) at the Bhopal plant, which until then had just formulated pesticides with imported ingredients. The MIC technology was highly hazardous for which reason, UCC told the Indian government, it would need to retain control of the process. Union Carbide Corporation engineers designed the MIC plant (using untested technology to effect savings of some $8 million), and insisted on the installation of three giant tanks, the size of rail locomotives, to hold liquid MIC. MIC is so dangerous that it is generally used as it is made and never stored. The tanks were opposed by Edward Muñoz, himself a UCC appointee as UCIL’s first managing director, but he was overruled from the US. The huge programme of cost-cutting that halved the factory’s workforce, cut the staff of the MIC unit from 12 to 6, and reduced safety training from six months to two weeks, was carried out under orders from the US based “Bhopal Task Force” overseen by Warren Anderson, and relayed to Bhopal by Union Carbide Eastern in Hong Kong. Substandard technology, storage of MIC in recklessly large quantities, irresponsible cost cutting leading to poor maintenance and neglect of safety including not passing on key warnings, were the key factors that led to the gas catastrophe which cost so many thousands their lives. For this Union Carbide Corporation bears direct responsibility and faces criminal charges which it must one day answer in court. Dow Chemical, well aware of Carbide’s situation when it bought the company, cannot walk away from this.

For more details on UCC’s direct role in the disaster see this bhopal.net article.

Eveready was, in fact, working on some remediation of the site when the state government of Madhya Pradesh revoked their lease in 1998 and took control of the site.

After the disaster, UCIL, directed by Union Carbide Corporation in the US (which tried to conceal its involvement), began assessing contamination at the site with the participation of state government authorities. Several internal studies, showing severe contamination, were not made available to the local public or government. Following the sale of UCIL stock in 1994, Carbide continued directing operations, assisted by its US trained manager, Hayaran, until at least 1995. Eveready Industries India Limited, the successor company, continued to avoid carrying out substantive cleanup work at the site. In July 1998 it suddenly relinquished the site lease to one department of the State Government while being supervised by another department on an extensive clean up programme.

The government of Madhya Pradesh has stated it will pursue both Dow Chemical as inheritor of Union Carbide Corporation and Eveready, inheritor of Union Carbide Indian Limited, as joint tortfeasors, to do the clean up. On June 28th, 2004, the Indian government wrote to the Southern District Court of New York, where the survivors’ lawsuit concerning contamination in Bhopal had been reinstated by the US appeals court. “Pursuant to the ‘polluter pays’ principle recognized by both the United States and India, Union Carbide should bear all of the financial burden and cost for the purpose of environmental clean-up and remediation. The Union of India and the State Government of Madhya Pradesh shall not bear any financial burden for this purpose.”

Per your comment on Polluter Pays, any efforts by activists to apply the “polluter pays” principle to Dow are, again, misdirected. If the court responsible for directing clean-up efforts ultimately applies the “polluter pays” principle, it would seem that legal responsibility would fall to Union Carbide India Limited, which leased the land, operated the site and was a separate, publicly traded Indian company when the Bhopal tragedy occurred. In 1994, Union Carbide sold its interest in Union Carbide India Limited with the approval of the Indian Supreme Court. The company was renamed Eveready Industries India Limited and remains a viable company today.

Under “polluter pays” laws applicable in India as in the United States, Union Carbide Corporation, as the majority shareholder and controlling partner in Union Carbide India Limited is liable to clean up the contamination it caused. Dow Chemical acquired 100% of Union Carbide in full knowledge of the Bhopal contamination. A Greenpeace report detailing the nature and extent of the problem was published in 1999, two years before the Dow-Carbide merger.

When Dow acquired Union Carbide, it acquired Carbide’s liabilities along with its assets. It could not be otherwise, and this is confirmed by the fact that Dow set aside $2.2 billion to cover the asbestos liabilities it had inherited from Union Carbide in the US It can hardly argue that it did not also inherit Union Carbide’s liability to clean up the mess it had created in Bhopal.

The Dow Chemical Company has never had any presence in Bhopal nor does the company have responsibility for any liability relating to Bhopal.

Again, the Dow Chemical Company has never had any presence in Bhopal nor does the company have responsibility for any liability relating to Bhopal. Dow’s responsibility, along with that of the rest of the industry, is to make sure something like this never happens again and to continue to drive industry performance improvements.”

Clupea harengus rufus (the red herring)

Second and third appearance of Dow’s favourite line. Dow has both responsibility and liability: the responsibility to produce its absconding subsidiary Union Carbide in court to face criminal charges, and the inherited liability for the water contamination which, even as this callous game of smoke and mirrors goes on, is killing and deforming children in Bhopal.

By refusing to accept responsibility for the clean up Dow is allowing 30,000 people affected by the water to continue being poisoned, and by obstructing the course of justice Dow by refusing to produce Union Carbide Corporation in court, it is denying any chance of justice and redress to the half million afflicted by the gas disaster.


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Dec 1: New Report Shows High Levels of Toxic Chemicals Still Found in Bhopal Drinking Water

New Report Released Today Shows High Levels of Toxic Chemicals Still Found in Bhopal Drinking Water

25th Anniversary of Bhopal Chemical Disaster Prompts Over 150 Actions Around the World

Amnesty International, Yes Men and Students Groups Globally Call on Dow Chemical and Indian Government to Clean Up Toxic Groundwater  As Thousands Still Face Birth Defects, Cancer and Other Illnesses

Download executive summary [PDF]
Download Full Report [PDF]

CONTACT: Shayna Samuels, 718-541-4785 or Glenn Turner, 917-817-3396

    (London, UK, December 1, 2009) – A new report was released today by the Bhopal Medical Appeal (BMA) and the Sambhavna Trust Clinic, proving that there are still high levels of toxic chemicals in the drinking water supply in 15 communities near the former Union Carbide pesticide factory. This release comes just two days before the 25th Anniversary of the Bhopal chemical disaster, when twenty-seven tons of lethal gases leaked from the factory, immediately killing 8,000 people and poisoning thousands of others.  The area was never cleaned up, and over 150,000 people, including children of survivors, are suffering tremendously as a result.

    The full report: “Analysis of Chemical Contaminants in Groundwater of Communities Surrounding UCIL Plant Site in Bhopal” can be found at www.bhopal.org and www.studentsforbhopal.org. This analysis, which includes testing results from as recently as June 2009, demonstrates that the water in and around Bhopal still contains unsafe levels of carbon tetrachloride and other persistent organic pollutants, solvents, nickel and other heavy metals. Not surprisingly, the populations in the areas surveyed have high rates of birth defects, rapidly rising cancer rates, neurological damage, chaotic menstrual cycles and mental illness.

The report was sponsored by the Bhopal Medical Appeal, a UK-based nonprofit; and the Sambhavna Trust Clinic in Bhopal, the only site that offers free treatment to those suffering from both the 1984 chemical gas disaster and the present day water poisoning.

“This new report is further proof that the area in Bhopal has not been cleaned up 25 years later, despite Dow Chemical’s claims to the contrary” said Shana Ortman, US Coordinator for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.  “Dow prides itself on a commitment to the ‘Human Element’ yet they are ignoring the people who are suffering the most due to the company’s own in-action.”

To commemorate the 25th Anniversary, thousands of supporters around the world will be participating in an International Day of Action on Thursday, December 3 to pressure Dow Chemical (the current owner of Union Carbide) to clean up the water in Bhopal and face criminal charges in India. The Day of Action will include mass rallies, symbolic “die-ins”, candle-lit vigils, concerts, protests and more.  Over 150 actions are being planned around the globe, from Bhopal to London, and San Francisco to Tel Aviv.

Highlights of the International Day of Action include:

  • The Yes Men will be leading an action in NYC with hundreds of students. The students will spell out “DOW” while others will hold signs saying “Clean up Bhopal”.
  • Steven Volan, a member of the Bloomington, IN City Council, will propose a Resolution that is poised to become the strongest U.S. city resolution about Bhopal ever passed.
  • At exactly 12:05pm on December 3, 25 people will “Die-In” in Union Square in San Francisco, holding visuals from Bhopal. The 25 people will each represent 1,000 people who died in Bhopal on December 3, 1984 and in the subsequent years.
  • Amnesty International and Students for Bhopal in Toronto will hold a peaceful rally and vigil with speakers outside the Indian Consulate.
  • Boston 4 Bhopal will host a “Fast for Bhopal” rally in Copley Square at 12:00pm on December 3. Participants will fast, sign petitions, exhibit photos and stage a “die-in”.
  • In Berlin there will be a 9 hour vigil at the Brandenburg Gate and the Indian Embassy with information, performances, and petitioning.
  • There will be a gathering led by the Bhopal Medical Appeal at Trafalgar Square in London at 3pm on December 2, which equates, in Indian time, the point at which the disastrous chain of events began.
  • Amnesty International will lead two online actions on December 2 – sending emails to the Dow Chemical Corporation and to the Prime Minister of India.
  • On December 3, thousands of supporters will be asked to call members of the Dow Board of Directors, calling on them to face their responsibilities in Bhopal.
  • Over 100 actions will take place across India, including a massive rally from Bhopal’s Bharat Talkies to the Union Carbide factory.

All of these groups, including the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, are demanding that:

  • The Indian government clean up Bhopal now to prevent further spread of the toxins, and use the courts to get reimbursed by Dow.
  • Dow’s subsidiary, Union Carbide, show up in court to face trial in the ongoing criminal proceedings against them in India.
  • The Indian Government establish the “empowered commission” that they promised in August 2008 to address the health, environmental, social, and economic issues in Bhopal.
  • The Indian Government finish building pipelines to bring clean water to the people in and around Bhopal immediately.

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NYTimes: Poisoned Water Haunts Bhopal 25 Years After Deadly Accident — Report

NY Times: Poisoned Water Haunts Bhopal 25 Years After Deadly Accident — Report

Twenty-five years after a toxic gas cloud from a pesticide factory killed thousands of people in Bhopal, India, groundwater at the accident site — a drinking water supply for 15 communities — remains contaminated, according to a report released today by an advocacy group and a medical clinic.

The U.K.-based Bhopal Medical Appeal and the Sambhavna Clinic say water contamination is worsening as chemicals leach through soil into the aquifer.

“A huge proportion of the factory site is full of very toxic waste,” said Colin Toogood, the report’s author. “There are parts of the factory where the soil you walk on is 100 percent toxic waste, and there are areas where you still see pools of mercury on the ground.”

At issue is one of the most famous industrial accidents of all time.

On the evening of Dec. 2, 1984, methyl isocyanate gas escaped from the former Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal, killing at least 3,000 people immediately. Thousands more are said to have since died or been injured as a result of the toxic cloud, although the exact death toll remains unclear.

The government of the Madhya Pradesh state took responsibility for the site in 1998, and Union Carbide is now a subsidiary of Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical Co.

Indian officials say the contamination around the factory is largely contained and is not a public health threat. The Indian government announced last week that it would open the site to the public to help people come to terms with the disaster.

And Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan told the BBC today that communities are being supplied with clean drinking water. “There is nothing hazardous to human life. … People should not be worried,” Chouhan said. “We have secured the site.”

But the new report claims site contamination has had lasting consequences on people exposed to it. “Not surprisingly,” the report says, “the populations in the areas surveyed have high rates of birth defects, rapidly rising cancer rates, neurological damage, chaotic menstrual cycles and mental illness.”

Researchers collected groundwater samples from 20 locations and sent them to a lab in Delhi, India. The lab did not report finding chemicals in its samples, so researchers sent duplicate samples to a lab in Switzerland, which reported high levels of chlorinated compounds in two of its three samples.

“It would be nice to think the contamination had cleared up, but it does make you wonder,” Toogood said. “The Swiss results just confirmed what we were expecting to find. There’s absolutely no doubt their [the Indian lab’s] samples were flawed, but we’re not able to speculate why that is.”

Swiss lab results show chloroform concentrations as many as 3.5 times higher than drinking-water guidelines from the World Health Organization and U.S. EPA, and carbon tetrachloride at up to 2,400 times higher than the guidelines.

Because of the highly contaminated samples and the discrepancies between labs, Toogood is pushing for an independent analysis of water quality around the site, including a large-scale groundwater sampling project and a long-term monitoring program.

“We would like to see a complete cleanup in Bhopal, but you can’t have that unless you have a full environmental assessment, and that would have to be done by an independent body,” Toogood said. “There’s too much going on with politics for it to be done by the Indian government. Our tests show that — there are clear discrepancies there.”

Advocates like Toogood insist that Dow Chemical, which bought Union Carbide in 2001, is responsible for the cleanup even though the site is now the property of the Indian government.

“Dow bought Union Carbide and inherited all of the assets and liabilities,” Toogood said. “One of the liabilities is the Bhopal cleanup. … Dow would like to pass the buck elsewhere, but as far as we’re concerned, they’re responsible. The Indian government took responsibility of the site, and they may own land, but they’re not the polluter.”

Union Carbide spokesman Tomm Sprick said in an e-mail that the company never owned or operated the plant because Union Carbide India Ltd. managed and operated the site, and that Union Carbide sold its stake in that company — which continues to operate today under another name — in 1994. Furthermore, he said Union Carbide provided financial and medical aid to the victims of the accident.

Finally, Sprick said the state government is responsible for cleanup activities and should deal with the groundwater contamination.

Copyright 2009 E&E Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

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US Congressmen tell Dow to clean up Bhopal

Ranjit Devraj, IPS, June 18, 2009
A campaign in the United States led by two girl victims from Bhopal, highlighting lingering toxicity left behind by the 1984 gas disaster in their city, has paid off with a group of 27 members of the U.S. Congress asking Dow Chemicals to clean up the site.

Sarita and Sareen, both in their teens, were taken on a 42-day tour of the U.S., starting Apr. 21, by the Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) so they could meet and interact with officials, academics and politicians in New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco and other cities.

Rachna Dhingra, a member of the BGIA team, described the intervention of 27 Congressmen as a “big step” in getting Dow Chemicals to accept responsibility for cleaning up the disaster site in Bhopal, which it acquired from Union Carbide in 2001.

“In the U.S. we had meetings with the State and Justice Department officials, who took keen interest in the issue of extradition of Warren Anderson, chairman of Union Carbide at the time of the world’s worst industrial disaster,” Dhingra told IPS over telephone from Bhopal.

A runaway reaction at the Union Carbide plant – said to have been caused by gross negligence – resulted in cyanide gas spewing into the streets of Bhopal city on the night of Dec. 3, 1984, killing more than 3,500 people instantly and at least 8,000 people in the first week. Further chemical damage affected more than 200,000.

Anderson managed to slip out of Bhopal and fly back to the U.S. – refusing to return to India to face criminal liability.

But the main agenda of the BGIA tour was to bring pressure to bear on Dow Chemicals to clean up the site where the pesticides factory stood – that remains saturated with toxic matter, forcing poor communities around it to drink contaminated water 25 years later, Dhingra said.
Satish Sarangi, who led the delegation, told IPS that the changed attitude was possibly the result of a more responsive administration under President Barack Obama. “Among those we met was Henry Waxman, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, who had in 1984 chaired the congressional sub-committee on the Bhopal Gas Disaster and had promised a fresh hearing where Dow officials could be summoned.”

In a letter to Dow Chemicals, the senators have demanded that the company take responsibility for meeting the medical needs of the survivors and their economic rehabilitation, besides cleaning up the soil and water of the area around the site.

“We request that Dow ensures a representative appear in the ongoing legal cases in India regarding Bhopal, that Dow meets the demands of the survivors for medical and economic rehabilitation, and cleans up the soil and groundwater contamination in and around the factory site,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Dow chairman and CEO, Andrew Liveris.
“Despite repeated public requests and protests around the world, Union Carbide has refused to appear before the Bhopal District Court to face the criminal charges pending against it for the disaster,” the letter said. When served with a summons by a Bhopal district court in 1992, Union Carbide publicly refused to comply.

In 1999 Bhopal survivors filed a class action suit in U.S. courts against Union Carbide, asking that the company be held responsible for violations of international human rights law and for cleanup of environmental contamination in Bhopal. The case is one of a handful of international corporate liability cases that test the limits of corporations’ ability to use the laws of one nation to escape responsibility in another.
Congressman Frank Pallone was quoted as saying that, “after 25 years, the human and environmental tragedy of the Bhopal chemical disaster remains with us, while Union Carbide and Dow Chemical are yet to be brought to justice.”

Sarangi thought what may have helped draw support from such a large group of Congressmen was the fact that both India and the U.S. uphold the “polluter pays” principle in which the polluter – rather than public agencies – is made responsible for environmental pollution.

Indicating the double standards followed by Dow Chemicals, Sarangi said that while the company saw fit to set aside 2.2 billion dollars in 2002 against Union Carbide’s asbestos-related liabilities in the U.S., it has continued to evade liabilities in Bhopal.

Dow Chemicals had taken the stand that all liabilities were settled in 1989 when Union Carbide paid 470 million dollars to the Indian government, to be distributed to the survivors.

But NGOs based in Bhopal say the amount was paltry compared to the three billion dollars originally demanded by the government, and also did not take into account the after-effects of the gas leak on the city’s inhabitants – some 15,000 of whom are estimated to have died subsequently of various complications.

It has been estimated that victims ended up receiving less than 350 dollars for injuries, some of them lifelong. Also Union Carbide may have gotten away with costs amounting to 48 cents per share.

In 1991, the Supreme Court ordered Union Carbide to set up a super- speciality 500-bed hospital in Bhopal to look after the long-term needs of the survivors. But the bulk of the funds actually came from the sale of Union Carbide’s Indian shares – confiscated by a district court as penalty after the company ignored summons to appear in the criminal liability case.

According to Dhingra, what became the Bhopal Memorial Hospital Trust facility was quickly ridden with corruption and mismanagement so that the real victims could never actually access any of its facilities.

Syed M. Irfan, who heads the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha (Movement For the Rights of Men and Women Affected by the Bhopal Gas Tragedy), told IPS the state government of Madhya Pradesh was as much to blame for the uncaring attitude towards the victims of the disaster and to residual toxicity.

“If Dow Chemicals does undertake to pay for reparations then it is important to involve the NGOs rather than leave it solely to the government,” Syed told IPS. “The fact is that even the creation of a separate ministry to deal with the gas tragedy has not helped the interests of the victims.”

According to Dhingra a priority for the survivors now is to hold the central government down to a solemn promise it made in August last year to set up an ‘empowered commission’ to look into all aspects of rehabilitation – including medical care of the survivors, income generation, social support and clean-up efforts.

That promise came after a dramatic month-long, 500-mile walk by a group of 50 people from Bhopal to the national capital where they set up camp for 130 days.

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