Dow refuses to clean up its mess or take back its waste

Company refuses return of Bhopal waste

Feature story - 7 January, 2003
Activists from the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal wanted to give something back to Dow today: a few barrels of the waste the chemical giant refuses to clean up. Dow's response: arrests of over twenty activists.

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 big yellow barrels. From left to right: Rashida Bi, Bhopal survivor, Monique Harthoorn, Dutch campaigner, and Ganesh Nochur, Indian campaigner.

Their crime: unloading four barrels of waste transported from India aboard the Greenpeace ship "Arctic Sunrise" and delivering it to Dow's largest chemical plant in Europe, near Terneuzen, the Netherlands.

The poisonous waste is only a fraction of hundreds of tonnes that have been strewn around the derelict pesticide plant in Bhopal since 1984 when Union Carbide, which is now owned by Dow, fled the city after a gas leak at the plant killed 8,000 people and injured half a million. No-one has accepted responsibility for the waste and the chemical company still refuses to clean up the site. For 18 years, chemicals have leaked into the soil and ground water in and around the factory site and have been poisoning people who survived the gas leak. Today, the death toll stands at 20,000 and is rising every day. Children born to survivors are suffering health problems and 150,000 people are in urgent need of medical attention.

The Greenpeace activists included John Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace in the US and Rashida Bi, leader of the Bhopal Gas Victim Women's Union. Three activists abseiled down the building and hung eight huge photographs depicting Dow's corporate crime in Bhopal and a banner which called on Dow to clean up Bhopal.

"We´ll carry on confronting Dow with this corporate crime until it cleans up its toxic fallout in Bhopal and stops poisoning us. We're already struggling to survive sickness from gas exposure without adequate help from the company responsible, and are now facing a slow death from exposure to these poisons. How can a corporation get away with this?" asked Rashida Bi who travelled to the Netherlands to return the waste.

A new report released by Greenpeace today presents further evidence of severe contamination from chemical waste dumped at the plant. Greenpeace scientists have identified numerous poisons in the waste, including Sevin, the pesticide Union Carbide used to manufacture in Bhopal, and BHC, a mixture of toxic chemicals that can damage the nervous system, liver and kidneys and which can be passed from mother to child in the womb.

"We will not let Dow bury this crime in India but will carry on returning evidence to the company worldwide to confront it with its responsibilities towards all those who are being poisoned because of its failure to accept its pending liabilities in Bhopal. Corporations like Dow benefit from a global market for the development of their businesses but are not held globally accountable for their operations. Until they are, crimes such as this will continue to be committed and people and the environment will pay the price," said Ganesh Nochur, campaigner from Greenpeace India onboard the 'Arctic Sunrise'.

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal is calling on Dow to accept its pending liabilities in Bhopal, to clean up the site, provide people with clean drinking water, long-term medical care and full compensation. It is also calling for international legislation to be put in place to make sure companies, such as Dow, are held responsible for pollution or accidents their operations cause, wherever they occur.

Slideshow on the Bhopal disaster:

Immediate aftermath and the tragic effects of an avoidable disaster.