Tata FAQ #11: What role have the Indian and US governments played on the issue of water contamination?

In April, 2004, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States ruled (the first time any court has done so) that a multinational corporation based in one country could be held responsible there for an environmental cleanup in another country. Holding Union Carbide responsible for a comprehensive cleanup in Bhopal became a possibility – but there was one catch. Since the Indian Government holds title to the land, the court ruled that the permission of the government was needed before any cleanup could be enforced. For the Indian Government, the decision should have been quick and easy: after all, if Union Carbide wasn’t held liable, the Indian Government would probably have to foot the ~$500 million bill itself, or worse leave the Union Carbide waste there, where it continues to poison people for generations to come and do irreparable damage the environment. Yet the Government appeared strangely reluctant to submit the necessary No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the court.
It took an international campaign of Bhopal supporters in India and the US who faxed, called, emailed, demonstrated and went on a hunger strike for the Indian Government to submit the necessary NOC to the court. It is now the official policy of the Indian Government that Dow must be held liable for a comprehensive cleanup in Bhopal.
In a letter to the Ministry of Industry on December 8, the Charge d’ Affairs of the US Embassy in Delhi urged the government to withdraw the Rs 100-crore claim on Dow. A senior Cabinet Minister said: “if we do not help Dow settle this, then the company will move to Thailand or Vietnam.”

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