International experts call for immediate clean up of Bhopal

Greenpeace demands DOW to take responsibility

Press release - 4 November, 2004
In the lead up to the 20th anniversary of the worst industrial disaster in history, an independent team of experts (1) today presented recommendations for a clean up operation of the contaminated Union Carbide (UC) site in Bhopal that could be carried out following international standards (2).

At the symposium organised by Greenpeace, Professor Harald Burmeier, a civil engineer with almost 30 years of experience in hazardous waste management said: "The remediation of the site must include dismantling of the existing building and plant, the excavation and pre-treatment of polluted soils and the assembly of discarded stockpiles and it has to be done as a first step in the clean up process."

Forty tons of lethal gases leaked from Union Carbide pesticide factory in Bhopal on December 3rd 1984. However, the site also bears a deadly toxic legacy from years of routine plant operations, deadly chemicals have spread through out the local environment and drinking water supply. Experts agree that the most urgent measure is to immediately secure the site, prevent any access to it and supply safe pipelined water to the local communities.

The specialists suggested detailed technologies for the decontamination of the site as well as the clean up of the ground water using internationally recommended standards. A key recommendation is that the site should not be transformed into a landfill or any other long-term storage of hazardous waste. They also proposed the shipment of the stockpiled chemicals and other hazardous waste from India to developed countries for treatment.

"A longer-term remediation focusing on the clean up of the underground water is also a vital step, but one that will take many years to complete due to the complexity of the site and the unknown extent of contamination," Burmeier added.

In February 2001, UC merged with DOW Chemical Company and became a wholly owned subsidiary of DOW. "The biggest obstacle to clean up the Bhopal factory has been the lack of corporate responsibility and the political will to make it happen. Clearly the responsibility of bearing the cost of the clean-up lies with Dow Chemicals, and the Indian government should ensure that the company does not escape its responsibility," said Vinuta Gopal, campaigner with Greenpeace India.

Greenpeace and International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) are calling on DOW to take up their full responsibility for the clean up and are calling on the Indian government (3) to secure a swift solution for the ongoing tragedy now that we are commemorating the 20 anniversary of the disaster.

Notes: (1). Team of experts: Dr. Jurgen H. Exner, Chemist; Franz Schenker, Hydrogeologist and Harald Burmeier, Civil Engineer (2). Summary of recommendations available upon request(3). On June 23 2004, the Government of India issued a "No Objection" to a New York district Court to demand Union Carbide to clean up the site in Bhopal