Greenpeace activists on their way to Dow headquarters in the Netherlands to deliver a deadly cargo of waste from the Bhopal site in India, in yellow hazardous waste barrels.
Bhopal factory built in state capital of Madhya Pradesh,
1973: First methyl
isocyanate (MIC) imported from the USA. This chemical is highly
dangerous and difficult to handle and transport. Exposure causes
damage to eyes, throat and lungs which can be permanent.
1979: The Bhopal plant
starts to manufacture its own MIC.
1980 to 1984: The work
crew of the MIC unit was halved from 12 to six workers, the
maintenance crew from six to two workers. On December 26, 1981 a
plant operator was killed by a phosgene gas leak. Another phosgene
leak in January 1982 severely injured 28 workers and in October the
same year MIC escaped from a broken valve and four workers were
exposed to the chemical. The senior officials of the Union Carbide,
privy to a "business confidential" safety audit in May 1982, were
well aware of 61 hazards, 30 of them major and 11 in the dangerous
phosgene/MIC units. Remedial measures were then taken at Union
Carbide's identical MIC plant in West Virginia, USA, but not in
December 2-3, 1984:
Poisonous gas leak from Union Carbides pesticides factory. In three
days around 8,000 people die. On the night of the disaster, water
(that was being used for washing the lines) entered the tank
containing MIC through leaking valves. The refrigeration unit,
which should have kept the MIC close to zero degrees centigrade,
had been shut off by the company officials to save on electricity
bills. The entrance of water in the tank, full of MIC at ambient
temperature triggered off an exothermic runaway reaction an
consequently the release of the lethal gas mixture. The safety
systems, which in any case were not designed for such a runaway
situation, were non-functioning and under repair. Lest the
neighbourhood community be "unduly alarmed", the siren in the
factory had been switched off. Poison clouds from the Union Carbide
factory enveloped an arc of over 20 square kilometres before the
residents could run away from its deadly hold.
View the slideshow of the Immediate aftermath of the disaster.
December 7, 1984: Union
Carbide chairman Warren Anderson amongst nine people arrested by
Indian police during a visit to the factory. He is released on bail
of US$2000 and promptly flees the country. Union Carbide named as
accused #10 in the criminal case charging culpable homicide.
Subsequently, Anderson declared fugitive from justice after failing
to appear in criminal proceedings in India.
1985: Indian government
files claim for US$3.3 billion from Union Carbide in US court.
1986: Union Carbide
succeeds in persuading the court to send case back to Indian courts
where it knows it will be able to get away with much smaller
February 1989: After five
years of legal wrangling the Indian Government and Union Carbide
strike an out of court settlement. Compensation amount brought down
to US$470 million from original US$3.3 billion claimed by the
Indian Government. Union Carbide shares immediately rocket as
markets realise the company has escaped lightly.
April 1992: - After
ignoring four court summonses, Warren Anderson declared a fugitive
November 1994: Indian
Supreme Court allows Union Carbide to sell off its encumbered
assets in India to fund a hospital. Criminal proceedings against
Union Carbide become difficult to enforce because, although the
accused refuse to appear in Court, Carbide no longer has any assets
August 1999: Union
Carbide announces forthcoming merger with Dow Chemical Company.
November 1999: We test
soil, groundwater and wells in and around the derelict Union
Carbide factory and finds 12 toxic chemicals and deadly mercury in
quantities up to 6 million times higher than expected. Read the
November 1999: Several
victims of Bhopal disaster file class action suit against Union
Carbide and its former CEO, Warren Anderson, in federal court in
New York, charging Carbide with violating international human
rights law, environmental law, and international criminal law.
August 2000: We set up a
computer centre outside the factory to allow survivors of the
disaster demand justice from Union Carbide. Thousands of survivors
send email to the company which responds by closing it email server
for two days and blocking all future message on Bhopal.
February 2001: Union
Carbide and Dow chemicals merge to form the largest chemical
company in the world. Dow inherits assets and liabilities of Union
Carbide. However, Dow claims it is not responsible for a factory it
didn't operate. Lawyers advise that under Indian and US law this
claim by Dow is legal nonsense. Survivors demand Dow should be held
responsible for all medical and environmental liabilities in Bhopal
and that pending criminal liabilities against Carbide be
transferred to Dow. Dow's US$10 billion acquisition of Union
Carbide opens the possibility of enforcing criminal liability
against the corporation as Dow has four subsidiaries and assets in
January 9, 2002: Dow
accepts Carbide's liabilities in the US and settles a Texas
asbestos lawsuit originally filed against Union Carbide. Its share
price skids 23 percent. The plunge wipes out US$7.16 billion in
equity and puts Dow shares back where they were in October, 2000.
Despite accepting Union Carbide's US liabilities Dow shows no sign
of doing the same in India.
January 2002: A
scientific report finds lead and
mercury in the breast milk of nursing mothers in neighbouring
communities around the plant.
May 2002: Bhopal
survivors tour the US culminating in an informal meeting with the
then Dow CEO, Michael Parker at the
Dow AGM. Dow continues to ignore claims to clean up Bhopal.
July 19, 2002: It is
revealed that the Indian government plans to drop charges against
Warren Anderson, Union Carbide CEO at the time of the disaster.
Survivors of the disaster launch of 28 day hunger strike in Delhi
and global relay hunger strike is called in support of the
17 July - 15 August, 2002: On hearing of the plight
of the survivors in Bhopal, Diane Wilson starts a hunger
strike outside a Dow plant in Texas, USA. The Dow factory has
been polluting the Gulf coast since construction of the plant.
July 2002: Commenting on
the plight of survivors, Dow public affairs spokesperson Kathy Hunt
"$500 is plenty good for an Indian." Survivors facing chronic
illnesses due to the gas leak and an environment polluted daily by
the abandoned factory have received a maximum of US$500
compensation. This amounts to US$0.07 cents a day to ease a life
time of suffering. Dow previously paid out US$10 million to a US
family whose child was brain damaged by the Dow pesticide Dursban.
Now banned in the US, Dow still markets Dursban as safe in
August 28, 2002: Despite
pressure from the Indian government,
charges of culpable homicide reaffirmed against Warren Anderson
in Bhopal court. Court demands his immediate extradition.
August 29, 2002: A UK
discovers Warren Anderson living in a life of luxury in New
York State, US. Despite being wanted by India and Interpol, US
authorities have made no effort to extradite Anderson, claiming
they are unable to find him. The newspaper found him in two
Watch a short film comparing Andersons life of luxury with the
mess his company has left in India -
Real Player (4.3Mb)
Windows Media (4.2Mb)
September 30, 2002: A new
study from The People?s Science Institute, Dehra Dun confirms the
presence of highly toxic mercury in Bhopal drinking water, in some
places as high as two micrograms per liter, and warns of grave risk
to health. People have been drinking the water for 18 years after
the gas leak.
October 4, 2002: Bhopal
survivors and our activists hold a protest at Dow's European
headquarters. The CEO of Dow Europe is presented with a broom and
requested to clean up the toxic mess in Bhopal. Polite acceptance
is followed by further Dow inaction.
October 6 2002: "Jhaadoo Maaro
Dow Ko" campaign launched by survivors in Bhopal. The phrase
means "Hit Dow with a broom". It is an invitation for Dow to clean
up its toxic mess and a promise to sweep Dow out of India if it
October 21 2002: State of
Madhya Pradesh announces that it will petition the Indian Supreme
Court to compel Dow Chemical to clean up the contaminated soil and
ground water at the Union Carbide factory site.
October 21-23 2002:
Indian Government Ministers tell reporters that India is proceeding
with an application to extradite Carbide's ex-CEO Warren Anderson
from the US.
October 25 2002:
Guidelines drawn up by us for the clean-up of Carbide's
abandoned factory site are presented to Madhya Pradesh Chief
Minister and simultaneously handed to Dow offices in India, Europe
and the USA.
October 2002: Bhopal
survivors tour Dow plants in Europe to confront executives of
Dow Chemical and chemical industry associations in different
countries with brooms they have carried with them from Bhopal.
November 11, 2002:
Plaintiffs organisations share documents from the discovery process
of the US class action suit with the Indian Central Bureau of
Investigations (CBI). The documents
disclose that the company and Warren Anderson had imposed
"unproven technology" on their Bhopal factory in the critical MIC
unit. CBI acknowledges that the documents will be of great use for
prosecution and the extradition of Warren Anderson.
November 14, 2002:
Survivors release documents obtained via discovery in the New York
class action. Documents show that UCC imposed 'unproven technology'
in the critical MIC unit in order to cut costs and retain control
of their Indian subsidiary.
November 19, 2002:
erect signs to warn people living around an area of land used
by Union Carbide to dump its hazardous waste. When the factory was
operating, toxic chemicals were disposed in open evaporation ponds.
Some people have been digging up soil from the area and using it to
build their houses.
November 22, 2002: Secret Union
Carbide documents go public. The documents show that Union
Carbide tested soil and water in and around its factory in Bhopal
after the disaster and found them to be heavily contaminated. It
did not make this information public but used another report, which
said there was no contamination, to appease the public and the
government of India. The confidential documents show they
considered the findings of this report to be unreliable.
November 25, 2002: Local
residents and our activists enter the Union Carbide site to contain
part of the toxic waste on site and show Dow how it should be
dealing with it's own mess. Despite the worthy intentions,
police arrest everyone within one hour for trespassing. A
strange world indeed where the people responsible can ignore the
continued poisoning of thousands but police arrest anyone seeking
to bring the world's attention to the problem?
November 28, 2002: Dow
posts an internal memo on its website stating the following: "But
what we cannot and will not do - no matter where Greenpeace takes
their protests and how much they seek to undermine Dow's reputation
with the general public - is accept responsibility for the Bhopal
accident." A few days later the author Dow CEO M. Parker is
December 2, 2002:
Women survivors march to Indian headquarters of Dow to bring to
it a sample of what is poisoning them every day. After a peaceful
protest a Dow employee accepts the contaminated soil and water from
around the plant.
December 3, 2002:
march in the streets of Bhopal on the 18th anniversary of the
disaster. Candle lit demonstrations are held across the globe in
support of the call for justice in Bhopal.
December 3, 2002:
Dow CEO a visit at his home to ask what he will be doing about
Bhopal 18 years on. Despite claim he will be spending 'a few quiet
moments reflecting on the tragedy' he appears to be holding a
dinner party instead. Parker meets with the activists, and promises
to release the composition of the gas, previously considered by the
company as an off-limit trade secret. The information could help
physicians who are trying to appropriate treat the 150,000
chronically ill gas-affected Bhopal survivors.
Watch the video (Real Player)
December 3, 2002: Tired
of the endless public relations platitudes on Dow's website but
complete lack of action in Bhopal, internet activist group, the yesmen, decide to
represent Dow a bit more honestly
on the internet. The site is an instant hit and Dow responds in
typically heavy handed manner to attempt to quash the protests but
this only serves to spread the hypocrisy of how Dow is more
concerned about its image than poisoning people in Bhopal. The story rumbles on, on the
web and in print.
December 5, 2002: Money
talks - Investment firms with stock of US$13 billion say
Dow should resolve the Bhopal issue to prevent further damage
to its image.
December 13, 2002: Dow
CEO M. Parker is sacked and replaced by William S. Stavropoulos who
masterminded the takeover of Union Carbide. Parker was sacked only
for the 'poor financial performance' of the company,
December 13, 2002:
Inspired by the yesmen, we launch parody website mad-dow-disease.com to
expose Dow's blatant double standards.
December 23, 2002: Dow
files a claim for
US$10,000 against women survivors who peacefully protested
outside the Dow Bombay office on Dec 2nd. Not content with ignoring
Bhopal, Dow is now suing the very people it should be helping.
January 7, 2003: To show
Dow that problems in India cannot just be ignored because they are
we returned Bhopal waste to its new owner at Dow's biggest plant
outside the US. Dow's response: arrests of over twenty
January 23, 2003: In the
last few months Dow has recieved over 15,000 emails and thousands
more postcards asking it to clean up Bhopal. So far it has ignored
all messages from concerned citizens. Se we organised something
that is not so easily ingnored - a call in day to Dow's ethics
Hundreds of people called in and Dow's response was the closure
of phone lines to any questions on Bhopal.
March 10, 2003: To
highlight Dow's attempts to silence survivors protests in India
with a US$10,000 damages claim, we launch a
internet sit-in of Dow's greenwash site at bhopal.com. True to
form Dow refuses to drop the suit against peaceful protestors and
attempts to evade the internet action with technical tricks. The
protest brings down bhopal.com on Wednesday 12 March.
March 11, 2003: Activists
block the entrances to the Houston Dow Center after delivering
250 gallons of contaminated water taken from wells in Bhopal,
the site of the world's worst industrial disaster. The water, the
same water that the people of Bhopal are forced to use everyday, is
removed from the scene by a US hazardous materials team. Dow gets
people in chemical suits to remove the water but is content to let
poor Indians use it everyday?
March 18, 2003:
Disappointment as a US court throws out Bhopal survivors' civil
damages lawsuit. The judge, John F Keenan, has thwarted all three
attempts to prosecute Union Carbide in the US, and his latest
decision makes no effort to conceal its bias. Survivors seek an
appeal and a new judge for the case citing his decision as "glaring
instance of juridical prejudice."
March 25, 2003: Survivors
organisations confirm intent to appeal the decision. Read the grounds for
appeal and an interesting look at the shaky grounds
the judge used to protect corporate criminals for a third time.
local paper in Dow's hometown says Dow should be cleaning up
the polluted site.
April 22, 2003: Rashida
Bee and Champa Devi Shukla, gas affected Bhopal survivors and
Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action arrive in Texas
for a 40 day tour of the US. During their tour, Rashida and
Champa visit various communities affected by Dow Chemical, and also
engage in strategic discussion with support groups to strengthen
their struggle for justice.
May 1, 2003: Rasheeda,
Champa and long-time Bhopal activist Satinath Sarangi along with
other Bhopal supporters launch a satyagraha - fast for justice -
against Union Carbide's new owner, Dow Chemical, with a
demonstration in New York. A Dow spokesman blithely remarks in
response to the hunger strike, "We view the situation as
May 8, 2003: At the Dow
annual meeting in Midland, Michigan, Rasheeda, Champa and Satinath
disaster home to top executives of Dow Chemical. The activists
are reluctantly granted a meeting with the Dow CEO. However the now
familiar stonewalling and another lecture in corporate hand washing
and PR is the only result of the short meeting. William
Stavaropolos, Dow CEO, claims in a speech to the shareholders at
the meeting that Dow-Carbide no longer faces any criminal cases in
India. John Musser, Dow's public relations spokesperson is later
forced to admit that
this claim is wrong.
May 12, 2003: The three
hunger strikers today end their personal fast by calling on
supporters and justice campaigners around the world to take over
and fast in relays from now until the 19th anniversary of the
Bhopal gas disaster.
July 1, 2003: Significant
developments as the Indian government finally and reluctantly does
what it and its predecessors ought to have done long ago by serving
extradition papers to the US government for the chairman of Carbide
at the time of the disaster,
Warren Anderson. This time last year, it was applying to dilute
the charges against Anderson. It has taken huge pressure from
survivors and their supporters around the world, plus two global
hunger-strikes, and angry condemnation by an all-party committee of
Indian MPs to force the government's hand. More from
Bhopal.net (scroll to bottom of page).
July 22, 2003: Eighteen
members of US Congress send a letter to Dow Chairman William
Stavropoulos demanding that his company assume liability for the
wrongdoings of Union Carbide (its 100 percent subsidiary) in
Bhopal. Read the
letter (pdf file) and press
campaign for justice in Bhopal continues and you can find out how you can
This timeline was created using information from the following