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17 January 2014 – Statement of Solidarity

The West Virginia Chemical Spill: 
Solidarity from the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, North America (ICJB-NA) expresses solidarity with the communities of West Virginia that are facing a toxic nightmare. The Freedom Industries chemical spill and the Union Carbide Corporation’s (UCC) chemical leak in Bhopal, India share many similarities, namely: (1) Unsafe design; (2) Unsafe location; (3) Failure to report to official bodies; (4) Denial of the leak by the Corporation immediately after the incident; (5) Inadequate information available on the leaked chemical and on an appropriate response, and; (6) Government’s negligence in regulation.

It will soon be thirty years since the people of Bhopal, India were exposed to 40 tons of the highly toxic, methyl isocyanate (MIC) due to the hazardous design/cost-cutting decisions of UCC, now owned by the Dow Chemical Company. As we approach the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster, we wish to express solidarity with your struggle and reiterate our vision –“No More Bhopals”. We demand an end to chemical leaks and spills that pose threats to the safety of our environment and health, including the health of future generations.

The contamination of our water – the most precious resource for human life – is a heinous crime. Like you, Bhopalis have faced widespread groundwater contamination since 1981, even predating the gas disaster of 1984. Additionally, the site of the disaster has yet to be cleaned up, resulting in further soil and groundwater contamination. Most of the affected communities have been forced to rely on this water containing dangerously high levels of mercury, heavy metals and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). This has led to a host of health problems, including headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, abdominal pain, as well as reproductive health problems, including the suppression of lactation, birth defects and developmental disabilities. This is in addition to the chronic health problems already experienced by survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster, which include sickness in the respiratory, ocular, neurological, neuromuscular, and gynecological systems. Survivor groups led a relentless campaign for years and in 2012, the state government of Madhya Pradesh constructed pipelines to supply clean water to the affected communities.

Toxic facilities are routinely situated in areas populated by the poor, working-class and/or racial minorities and, left to self-regulate, chemical industries will continue to pose a threat to the lives and environments of such communities. UCC’s Bhopal plant was situated alarmingly close to several slum communities, populated by some of the most marginalized sections of Indian society. The same rings true in North America. The Navajo nation faces the depletion of their water resources and pollution at the hands of the Peabody Western Coal Company. This has led to an increase in respiratory health issues, which first became apparent in the late 1960s, but like Bhopal, the struggle continues decades later. In Canada, the Anishinaabe nation lives on the Aamjiwnaang reservation in “Chemical Valley,” an area that is home to 40% of Canada’s chemical industry. A 2005 community-based study found that of 132 women surveyed, 39% had at least one stillbirth or miscarriage. These are a few cases in a wider problem of toxic facilities being routinely situated in areas populated by indigenous communities, African-American communities, working-class white communities and other marginalized communities.

Governments must enact regulation that will ensure the safety of communities near and workers within toxic facilities, and ensure that polluting facilities are held responsible. In effect, we demand that the precautionary principle, the community’s right to know, and the polluter pays principle guide all regulation related to chemical facilities.

In Solidarity,

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, North America

Contact:

Reena Shadaan (reena.shadaan@icjb.org) / Renu Pariyadath (renu.pariyadath@gmail.com)

International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, North America (ICJB-NA)

icjb.us.ab@gmail.com

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Survivor Memories – 29th Anniversary

The women-activists of Bhopal are central to taking the struggle forward. The following testimonials were gained from women-activists in the survivors’ groups that led ICJB in 2010.

Vimla Bai, in her early 40s

I got involved because water is poisoned and people were exposed to gas…[O]ur children are getting sick since the water is contaminated, so there are different kinds of problem that have been found in them. Children are weak. We suffer from a burning sensation in our eyes, and also suffer from chest pain, pain in the ribs, cough and cold. Often our cold and cough does not go for 2 – 4 months. We also suffer from stomachache, joint pain, and complaints of white discharge has been found amongst girls and women. Our children suffer from these problems and the treatment from the hospitals does not help. Children, they are 15 – 16 years old, but they look like they are 10 years old, so they are so weak and they have so many problems in their bodies. Some are suffering from breathlessness, pain in the ribs, some suffer from cough and chest pain. There are many and different kind of diseases that have been found. They all are caused due to [contaminated] water. We have so many diseases and we are in a great loss.

Because we got support [from other people] when we started fighting, I have more strength to fight. If we go and fight for our rights, then there would be better treatment for us, so this gives me more spirit to fight.

Usha Dongre, in her mid 30s

…I just hope we all have good water one day, so there will not be children being born like this. They should not be in such a bad condition. Women are suffering from bad and irregular menstrual circulation and they face lot of problems during the delivery.

We have to keep the fight on and we have to fight in the future as well. Even the coming generations have to fight this fight. That is why we get encouragement and we do feel powerful.

Sheela Devi, in her late 60s

These illnesses are increasing and children are being born like this [with birth deformities]. Women are the ones suffering the most from many problems…[T]here are many diseases that have spread after and because of the disaster. Some are suffering from eyes problems and some suffer from irregular or no menstrual cycles. These problems are not going to decrease; they increasing. Women are getting older with their children are being damaged from inside…[M]y husband fell that night as he was walking and after that his limbs stopped working, one hand was damaged, his eye were damaged. He died in 2000, but before he died he suffered. He was almost continuously in bed since the disaster until the time he died in 2000. I had to look after them as he was a six month old baby for 12 years. [I had to] feed him, take him to the toilet. He used to be in bed all the time.

We have not got the justice yet, so this fight will go ahead and every child will become aware and come forward for this fight, and if today parents are having the problems and they are suffering, then their children are seeing the suffering of their parents, so the children will become aware.

Shanti Bai, in her mid 50s

In order to get justice, I have joined this fight. I am a gas victim…[W]e have not been given any justice, that’s why I have joined them, and I am with all the people.

We have been fighting, but if tomorrow we are not there to fight, then they [the next generation] should come in front and fight.

Shameem Bi, in her early 60s

I will fight until my last breathe…Nothing has been done for us so far, so that is why I got involved.

Savitri, in her early 60s

The future of the poor has been ruined. Women lost their children and husbands. Today, if my eldest son had not died, then he would have been 40 years old. Today he would have been the father of four children and we would have been having a good house with good support if he was alive today…[J]ust because of him, there is a fire in my heart 24 hours a day.

The ones who inhaled gas, they died, and the ones who are alive, they want clean water and treatment, so that they can live.

Resham Bi, in her early 60s

Many people died from my community. People have died due to cancer and stomach diseases. Even today people are suffering. They suffer from a burning sensation in their eyes, stomach, and chest. Their limbs are bent and [they have] shakes. I gave birth to two children after the disaster. They both were born dead.

I just think that if this gas had not leaked then all this would not have happened. Even after all this has not been any justice for us, so that is why the fight is still on.

The future of children is being ruined, that is why I have to make sure that what we have suffered from and gone through, they should not face it. All of my children are sick, the children of other people are sick.

Rashida Bi, in her mid 50s

Everything here like soil, water, air is poisoned, and the ones who are alive, they are living their lives as live corpses. Women are the ones who have suffered and struggled a lot as they were the ones that got affected the worst, as women have lost the power of giving birth to babies, and their lives have been ruined from the day they were born until their last breath.

Whatever is happening in Bhopal, should not happen anywhere, so for this we started our struggle. People from other countries and cities should not have the life that we are forced to live with, and even their coming generation should not be ruined like ours, so our struggle is moving so fast this way.

Ram Bai, in her mid 40s

Because of factory, poison is being found in the water. We have seen that children are suffering from itching after drinking this water and suffering from other skin diseases, they are even weak. Boys who are of 20 years age, they can’t even lift weights of 15 – 20 kilograms. We were given information that this water had poison in it.

Since we already have fought once, if we fight any other fight, we won’t walk back. If there are people with me, then I will keep fighting in future as well.

Om Wati, in her early 60s

My daughter died because of the gas. She died on July 25, 1985, and she died on my lap…She was one year and nine months old. She was admitted in Hamidia hospital for five months before she had died. She had died at the hospital itself. Her skin was coming off her body because of the gas and she even had a hole in her heart. She looked like someone had poured hot water on her. She was looking like that even the night of the disaster…

[H]er whole body was kind of burnt, her eyes were swollen and she turned white the next morning of the disaster.

Actually when people from organizations talk about actions and go for it, I say to them that even I have lost my daughter and others are suffering, so I want to come with you to keep the fight on. I do not care what will happen to me, since there are many other people involved in the fight, we all will face whatever happens to us, so I just keep in mind that if they die we too will die, and that is why I am moving ahead with them.

I just think that it is better to die than living a life like this. My two sons are disabled, what would I think, as both of my sons are almost dead because of the gas. I believe that they might die even before me, so what will happen with the children of the new generation? These two children are disabled and we have to think about their futures. The woman who is sitting there, her son has a hole in his heart. What would I think when all the people in my family are suffering like this? And the new generation is like this, then on whose support we will live our lives?

Children are being born disabled, their body parts are being damaged and ruined. There is nothing left for the future, so we are worried about that. We have lived our lives. We did not have a good life, but we are quite worried about their lives, like what kind of future are they going to have?

I got involved because I want justice…[A]ll I can do is just to be with them [other activists] and support them and walk with them.

Nasreen Bi, in her mid 30s

This fight actually has made us feel powerful as we have seen a lot…[S]uddenly I have spirit that has comes in me. For instance if somebody has caused loss to someone, then people feel sympathetic and are kind to the ones who are suffering. When it comes to sympathy and kindness, I can even hold your chappals and walk with you.

 

Nasreen’s friend: And when we get angry, then we won’t even let you stand on your legs.

Nafisa bi, in her mid 40s

If this gas had not leaked, then there would have not been this much of passion and anger in the women. The gas leaked and brought anger in us. Pain with our children is our anger, this is not only the question of our house, it is the question of all of Bhopal. We go ahead to get justice.

Munni Bi, in her mid 50s

These children [younger activists], they have sacrificed everything for the fight. They are even not working…[T]hey are doing all this for the welfare for other people.

Meera Morey, in her mid 20s

I feel very bad because people who died when the gas leaked in 1984, they died and it was better for them, but the ones who are sick, and are disabled, they are suffering more even after 25 years. Still there is a lot of poison in them. People are still dying like this.

My father, he died after the disaster, about six to seven years ago, since he was severely affected by the gas. His lungs were completely damaged from inside, and my mother is always sick. Even her condition is often critical.

I get strength after seeing people’s spirit. Also after seeing the waste that Dow has spread here; the waste that they had buried under the ground. Every monsoon it comes through the water from tube-wells, hand-pumps. People are getting sick after drinking the water and going to hospitals. Their utensils are being spoiled and people are suffering from various diseases. Women are the ones suffering from most of the diseases, and after seeing this we get more anger and strength. That is why women are in front and have spirit. This is where the strength comes from. And this should not happen to anyone that is what we want.

[The next generation] should get involved, because the people who are fighting now, they will die someday. There have been many people who have died while fighting. We are getting future generation ready so that this fight can be taken forward.

Leela bai, in her early 50s

I actually get strength after seeing other people –strength to fight, strength to go ahead. For instance, if people like you can come from so far, then why can’t we people from Bhopal fight here itself. We can at least fight, which is better than nothing! We get our strength after seeing people like you, because since you people are supporting us, we should do something as well

After seeing people, their problems, their children’s problems, how come this much of strength can come automatically?! If the gas had not had leaked, then our children from here would have been fine, life would have been happy, and we would now have had that many problems. We would have been earning well, but because of pain, I feel so anger inside.

Leela Bai, in her early 70s

Our condition is so bad. We are fed up with drinking poisoned water. We have not been able to get anything and also there is no hope for us to live, you can see what our condition is!

[Strength] comes naturally, why wouldn’t we fight for our rights? But some people they are not intelligent, they do not know what they should do and what they should not, but I am clever enough and I know what to do. We should fight for our rights in our way.

Leela Bai, in her late 60s

Women are getting sick because of drinking this water, children are being born disabled because of this water and there are even many other types of sicknesses that have been found amongst the people. That is why I got involved with this organization.  

The strength to fight comes by itself…Women usually are home, their children are sick all the time and their husbands can’t work, so then you can think what women are going through because of all this. So that is why women panic and think what should we do, where would we go, how can we bring up and look after our children? So that is why women are coming in front [of the struggle]. Whatever  the government is doing is wrong, neither they are giving us water, nor medicine, nor any way by which children can study in all these communities. There is nowhere the people can get medicine from, so what will the mothers do when their children are sick? So that is why women think that there should be something for their children so that they can go ahead in their lives and this is why the women are going ahead and in front to fight.

We will tell our children that if we could not win, then you should make sure that the fight never ends and keep the fight on.

Kaniza Bi, in her early 40s

I feel sad when I hear about problems of the people in my community and its surrounding communities, because even my family is struggling and fighting with these kinds of problems. My husband died because of the gas and I had a son that died because of gas. All the people in my family are sick. My eldest daughter, she is sick. One of my other daughters who is younger to her, even she is sick. She has been sick since she was 4 – 5 years old. She suffers from severe headaches. Because of this, she can’t even think properly.  She is always lost and confused. She does not even know what she is doing. She has been hospitalized for the last 10 days, but she has been on medication for the last three months. Still her condition is so critical.

It is quite difficult for me to face all this and I personally feel that what has happened in Bhopal should not happen anywhere in the world. The people of Bhopal who have been struggling, they are neither dead nor alive, they are just struggling and fighting for a life of dignity, so such a bad disaster should not happen anywhere in the world which has forced people of Bhopal to live like this.

Kailashi Sharma, in her late 50s

I feel very sad. Nobody takes responsibility for all this. If one had taken responsibility for all this. I wish if I had died then, but since I am alive, I will fight.

It does not matter how disabled we are, whether we can’t see from our eyes, even when our knees are not supporting us and our hands and legs are not supporting us, even then when it comes to fight, our body supports us. I myself suffer from blood pressure and am a heart patient, but I just keep all this aside and go to fight.

Hazira Bi, in her mid 50s

We should be given the right to live. We are fighting for the coming generations, so that they do not suffer like this because of the corporations and the government. Union Carbide and Anderson should be punished for what has happened in Bhopal and the government should give us justice.

We want to have a right to live before we die.

The new generation has seen that young people are dying, children are born with disabilities born and people are suffering from diseases like cancer. So those young people and the coming generation is realizing that if we do not struggle and fight, then this generation too will be like this and be damaged completely. So after thinking this, the new generation is coming forward and standing to fight.

Gulab Bai, in her early 30s

I joined this fight because we are drinking poisoned water. First we were exposed to gas..and now we are drinking poisoned water and because of this, children are being born disabled. Some of them have their hands joint. Children of some people cannot walk and speak.

To make sure that the coming generations do not face the problems we have faced, [the younger generation] should get involved…[T]here should not be any problems in the future for our children. In future children should not be born disabled, and the problems that we already have faced, they should not face those.

 

Champa Devi Shukla, in her late 50s

My husband and two children died. I had to make my heart strong enough so that I can up bring other children in my family, and when I saw people in my neighborhood –the strength came after seeing all this. I even talked and tried to make them [people in my neighborhood] understand that even after losing most of the members in your family, it does not mean that one should give up and stop living. So this way I encouraged and made them aware  Today people are with us in the struggle and fighting the battle to live their lives.

I have been seeing people dying since 1984, and I could not forget the scene that I had seen that night. I get angry when I see children being sick and suffering in the communities. It is not their fault, they all are innocent. Where did they go wrong that they are suffering so much?! Union Carbide, Dow and our Governments are equally responsible for this.

Anger in me kept growing with time and also with the problems that kept coming in front of me. Then I decided that I will fight…Today after 25 years, we still have that power…I feel angry when I see disability and diseases in the whole society and today they are forced to live their lives like this. What was their fault? They all were innocent, and what can we do?

Baidan bi, in her mid 50s

Since we have suffered so much, strength to fight comes by itself, and now when we have organizations, we follow them. Now whatever the problem is, we face them…No matter what will happen to us – if they want to jail us or punish us, we don’t care. We are not scared at all.

 

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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

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Download Full Report [PDF]

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  December 1, 2009
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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