Toxic waste from Bhopal disaster scene returned to owner

Dow Chemicals accused of poisoning survivors

Press release - 2 December, 2002

Bhopal gas disaster survivors and supporters from around the world including Greenpeace activists deliver brooms with a message DOW CLEAN UP YOUR MESS to The Dow Chemical's Headquarters in Mumbai today.

On the eve of the 18th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster, people who survived the tragedy and their supporters from India and around the world, including Greenpeace activists, (1) made a procession through central Bombay to Dow Chemical's headquarters in India, where they delivered contaminated soil and water from the disaster scene and challenged Dow, as the new owners of Union Carbide (2), to clean up Bhopal.

The procession was led by approximately 200 women, who had travelled from Bhopal to Bombay to lend their support and deliver hundreds of brooms to Dow with the message Jhadoo Maro Dow Ko or "Dow, clean up your mess". (3)

The soil and ground water in and around the deserted Union Carbide pesticide factory has become increasingly contaminated since 1984, by hundreds of tonnes of hazardous waste Union Carbide left strewn around the site when it fled the city after a gas leak at its Bhopal pesticide plant caused the world s worst industrial disaster, killing 8,000 people at the time and 12,000 more since. At least one person a day still dies from gas exposure related diseases and 150,000 are in urgent need of medical attention. Hundreds of families living near the site still routinely use the contaminated water. (4)

Mrs Champa Devi, who survived the Bhopal disaster and led the women in the procession, said: We're delivering this toxic soil and water to Dow to urge it to save thousands of lives in Bhopal by cleaning up the dangerous chemicals that have been dumped in Bhopal. Ever since the horrific night of the gas leak we, the people who survived, and our children, have been slowly poisoned by them. They've seeped into our water and have now been found in mother's milk. It s time Dow stopped killing us and put an end to our tragedy by cleaning up the site. Until it does, we cannot move on with our lives.

Since the disaster, no-one has taken responsibility for the contaminated factory site in Bhopal or the waste that still lies dumped their (5). Union Carbide's confidential internal documents (See Poison Papers' on www.bhopal.net or www.greenpeace.org), reveal that the company was fully aware of the contamination it was causing at the Bhopal factory site but still did nothing to clean it up. Union Carbide and its Chief Executive Officer at the time of the disaster, Warren Anderson, absconded from justice and, since Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide in February 2001, it has similarly refused to accept any responsibility for the ongoing disaster in Bhopal.

By refusing to assume its liabilities in Bhopal, Dow is guilty of compounding the death toll for this tragedy. This is complicit murder no matter how you look at it. People who managed to survive the greatest industrial tragedy of our times, and their children, are being given a daily dose of poison courtesy of Dow, said Greenpeace campaigner Von Hernandez in Bombay.

VVPR info: Photos and video of Bhopal and today's protest are available on request. Images of Greenpeace volunteers and people in Bhopal being prevented by police from cleaning up some of the toxic waste dumped at the derelict factory site in Bhopal last Monday, are also available on request from Greenpeace communications. Video: Mim Lowe + 31 6535 04721 Photos: John Novis + 31 6538 19121

Notes: (1) Greenpeace is a member of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal that is demanding Dow cleans up the contamination in Bhopal, provides long term health care to survivors, clean running drinking water, social and economic rehabilitation and full compensation for survivors. Other members include: Bhopal Action Resource Center USA, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmachari Sangh India, Bhopal Group for Information and Action India, Bhopal Information Network Japan, Center for Health & Environment USA, Corpwatch India, Essential Action USA, Ecology Centre of Michigan USA, Environmental Health Fund USA, Environmental Health Watch USA, National Campaign for Justice in Bhopal India, Pesticide Action Network USA, The Other Media India, UK Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. (2) When it bought Union Carbide last year, Dow became the largest chemical company in the world based on total sales of chemicals of US$28 billion. Dow has more assets than the national economies of two- thirds of the worlds nations, based on their GDP. (Chemical and Engineering News, Global Top 50 , July 29, 2002, Volume 80, Number 30, pp. 15-18; World Development Indicators Database, World Bank, August 2002. http://www.worldbank.org/data/databytopic/GDP.pdf). (3) Last October, gas affected women in Bhopal issued an international appeal asking people to collect jhadoos (brooms). In India, being struck by a jhadoo is the ultimate insult. By delivering jhadoos to Dow, the women are telling Dow to clean up its mess in Bhopal or be prepared to be swept off the planet.(4) For further scientific information about the hazardous waste at the factory site or chemicals found in the soil and water, see "The Bhopal Legacy" on www.greenpeace.org(5) On 31st August 2002, Greenpeace served a statutory notice to the government of Indian to notify it that Dow, as the new owners of Union Carbide, is liable for the clean up of Bhopal and that it is violating Indian law by leaving the toxic waste at the Bhopal factory site. The Indian government said it agrees that the existence of hazardous chemicals at the site is illegal. On 23rd October 2002, Greenpeace presented Dow with technical guidelines that explain how to properly clean up the toxic site in Bhopal.

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