Toxic Bhopal water delivered to Dow chemicals

Press release - 3 December, 2001

Greenpeace activists in several countries today joined 'AaCcTt: Bhopal' (1), a global alliance of survivors´ groups from Bhopal and their supporters in an international day of action to mark the 17th anniversary of the world's worst industrial disaster. Activists collected contaminated groundwater in Bhopal and personally delivered it to several Dow offices and employees around the world (2). The water bottles, labeled "Refreshingly Toxic Bhopal Water: - Available only in Bhopal and other selected areas", highlight the continued contamination of groundwater around the site of the disaster, which is still used by up to 5,000 Bhopal families for everyday needs.

The coalition called for renewed efforts to rehabilitate survivors of the disaster, clean up of the residual contamination at the abandoned site, Union Carbide and its officials to be held accountable and for international laws to be developed to ensure that corporations are made responsible for chemical accidents and ongoing pollution worldwide.

On the midnight of December 2-3, 1984, over half a million people were exposed to a cocktail of poison gases from Union Carbide's pesticide factory. Around 7,500 people died in the immediate wake of the disaster. According to local groups, the current toll of dead has crossed 20,000 and a large number of people continue to suffer from exposure-related chronic illnesses of the lung, eyes, brain, heart, immune, hormonal, reproductive and other systems and are in desperate need of medical attention.

After the accident, Union Carbide abandoned the factory and left hundred of tonnes of chemical wastes which have seeped into the drinking water source of the neighbouring communities. Many people are forced to drink water that contains a cocktail of hazardous chemicals including chlorinated benzenes, chloroform, trichloroethene and carbon tetrachloride. A 1999 study by Greenpeace found contamination levels to be far above US EPA drinking water standards. Carbon tetrachloride was found at levels 682 times higher than standards in the US, chlorinated benzenes at 5-11 times higher, trichloroethene 50 times higher and chloroform more than 20 times above US limits.

In February this year, Union Carbide managed to shed its name by becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of US-based multinational Dow Chemicals. Dow Chemicals purchased Union Carbide for a sum of 9.3 billion USD, thus creating the second largest chemical company in the world.

"Dow not only bought Union Carbide´s assets but its liability for the Bhopal tragedy and the environmental disaster which is continuing today. It must take responsibility for its toxic legacy, rehabilitate and fully compensate survivors and clean up the hazardous mess that is still poisoning many people in Bhopal," said Greenpeace campaigner, Hemant Babu.

In a significant development in the long history of litigation to ensure the chemical industry takes responsibility for Bhopal, on November 15th 2001, the US second circuit court has upheld an appeal the environmental liabilities of Bhopal. Mrs. Rashida Bi, President of the Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, Bhopal, an organization of women survivors, said: "The US court's decision should make it difficult for Dow to wriggle out of its responsibilities towards Bhopal but a lot depends on people raising hell".

Mr. Balkrishna Namdeo, President of the Nirashrit Gas Peedit Morcha, Bhopal, an organization of survivors in need of social support, appealed for international efforts to stop the "continuing disaster in Bhopal" and make Dow accept its long-term responsibility towards the victims.

Notes: (1) 'AaCcTt:Bhopal' - 'Action against Corporate crime and Toxic terror:Bhopal' is an international alliance for justice in Bhopal and a toxic free future for all. The coalition includes local Bhopal survivors' organisations, Gas Peedit Nirasharit Morcha, Bhopal, Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal, Bhopal Group for Information and Action, National Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, Mumbai, The Other Media, New Delhi and Greenpeace. (2) Greenpeace activists delivered Bhopal water to Dow in Switzerland, Netherlands, Chile, Thailand, China (Hong Kong) and India (Bhopal and Bangalore). Greenpeace also protested at Dow facilities in Kerala, India, Argentina and the United States.