WANTED: Dow for crimes against the planet

Feature story - 20 August, 2002
Michael D. Parker and Dow Chemical Company are corporate scoundrels of the worst kind. They were forced to clean up a toxic mess at home in the US, but won't clean up one of the deadliest chemical spills on the planet in Bhopal, India. Someone is getting away with murder. Governments must agree on legally binding rules at the Earth Summit next week to ensure sustainable development and hold corporations accountable for their actions.

Michael D. Paker, CEO of Dow Chemical Company, is wanted for crimes against the planet. You can get your own Dow WANTED poster below.

The environmental criminal:

Michael D. Parker, head of Dow chemicals, the world's largest chemical company is wanted for questioning about how a immensely wealthy US multinational refuses to help the survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster.

His company constantly denies any responsibility for the suffering of 120,000 residents of Bhopal, who remain chronically ill, despite purchasing Union Carbide, owners of the plant at the time of the disaster.

The environmental crime: On the night of December 2nd 1984, over 40 tonnes of lethal gas spilled out from Union Carbide's pesticide factory in Bhopal,India. With safety systems either malfunctioning or turned off, a huge area of the city was enveloped in lethal gas. People woke in their homes to fits of coughing, their lungs filling with fluid. In the span of the first three days after the accident, over 8,000 people died in Bhopal.

Since the disaster, over 20,000 people have died from exposure-related illnesses, and of the approximately 520,000 people exposed to the poisonous gases, an estimated 120,000 remain chronically ill.

Justice has eluded the people of Bhopal for over 17 years. Union Carbide negotiated a settlement with the Indian government in 1989 for US$470 million, which amounts to a paltry total of US$370 to US$533 per survivor, which does not cover medical bills for most of the survivors. Imagine having your life ruined by an avoidable industrial disaster and being paid only US$400 compensation by a huge chemical multinational.

Since its merger with Union Carbide, Dow has refused to assume these liabilities in India despite the fact that over 20,000 people in vicinity of the Union Carbide factory continue to be exposed to toxic pollution from the abandoned chemical plant. Dow proudly proclaims "Living. Improved daily." in its propaganda of chemical propagation. However in Bhopal it is a case of "Life. Poisoned daily."

The victims: The people of Bhopal have been suffering since the day of the disaster. You can view the shocking images of the immediate aftermath, the suffering in the years that followed and see what people are doing today to fight back.

The verdict: Guilty. Dow claims " protecting people and the environment is part of everything we do and every decision we make." In reality it seems that because the disaster happened in India the company thinks it can get away without cleaning up the mess and properly compensating survivors. Dow claims to be " in discussions" with Bhopal activists. After almost 18 years what the people of Bhopal really need is action not mere words.

You can help make Dow take responsible for their environmental crimes, write to Dow and tell them to clean up their act.

Reward: Showing the chemical industry that it cannot hide its pollution in the developing world. A life poisoned daily is worth the same whether it is in the US or India.