Dow targets penniless Bhopal survivors in courts

Press release - 23 December, 2002

Bhopal gas disaster survivors commemorate the 18th anniversary of the gas disaster by burning effigies of the Chief Ministerof Madyha Pradesh (Digvijay Singh), Indian's Prime Minister (Vajpayee Bihari) and former CEO of Union Carbide (Warren Anderson) close by the gates of the former Union Carbide factory in Bhopal on the 3 December 2002 where 100's tonnes of toxic waste still abandoned.

Dow Chemical last week approached Indian courts in an attempt to sue Bhopal survivors and their supporters, including Greenpeace (1), for holding peaceful demonstrations on the eve of the 18th anniversary of the gas disaster. Dow is demanding that protestors pay 10,400 US dollars "for loss of work" and asking for a restraining order from holding future protests.

On December 2nd, survivors and supporters walked through central Bombay to Dow Chemical's Indian headquarters to deliver their grievances. They delivered contaminated soil and water from the disaster scene and challenged Dow to clean up Bhopal. The procession was led by approximately 200 women, who had traveled from Bhopal to Bombay to lend their support and deliver hundreds of brooms to Dow with the message Jhadoo Maro Dow Ko" or "Dow, clean up your mess". (2)

Mrs Champadevi Shukla, who survived the Bhopal disaster and led the women in the procession and who is now sued by Dow, said: "We delivered the brooms, the toxic soil and the contaminated drinking water to Dow. We want them to take our cause seriously and save thousands of lives by cleaning up the dangerous chemicals that have been left in Bhopal. It's time Dow stops killing us and adequately compensate the victims for the medical care and loss of lives and livelihoods."

The soil and groundwater in and around the deserted Union Carbide pesticide factory has become increasingly contaminated since 1984. Hundreds of tonnes of hazardous waste was left abandoned by Union Carbide when it fled the city after a gas leak caused the world s worst industrial disaster killing 8,000 people in the first three days and 12,000 more since. At least one person a day still dies from gas exposure related diseases and 150,000 are in urgent need of medical attention. Hundreds of families living near the site still routinely use the contaminated water.

"Thousands have lost their lives, over 150,000 people in Bhopal are still suffering ill health because of the Union Carbide gas tragedy in1984", said Satyu of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action in Bhopal and one of the protesters sued by Dow. "It is beyond belief that Dow should be demanding money from penniless people who they destroyed in the first place."

Since the disaster, no one has taken responsibility for the contaminated factory site in Bhopal or the waste that still lays there (3). Union Carbide's confidential internal documents (4), reveal that the company was fully aware of the contamination it was causing at the Bhopal factory site but did nothing to clean it up. Union Carbide and its Chief Executive Officer at the time of the disaster, Warren Anderson, absconded from justice and, since Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide in February 2001, it has similarly refused to accept any responsibility for the ongoing disaster in Bhopal (5).

"Suing penniless survivors is not the way to show goodwill towards the Bhopal people, especially during this time of year," said Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Campaigner. "With the new CEO at Dow we would have expected them to come out of habitual denial and begin to recognize their liability for the horrendous disaster they created."

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Notes: (1) Greenpeace is a member of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal that is demanding that Dow cleans up the contamination in Bhopal, provide long term health care to survivors, clean running drinking water, social and economic rehabilitation, and full compensation for survivors. (2) Last October, gas affected women in Bhopal issued an international appeal asking people to collect jhadoos (brooms). In India, being struck by a jhadoo is the ultimate insult. By delivering jhadoos to Dow, the women are telling Dow to clean up its mess in Bhopal or be swept off the planet. (3) For further scientific information about the hazardous waste at the factory site or chemicals found in the soil and water, see "The Bhopal Legacy" on (4) See "Poison Papers" on or On 31st August 2002, Greenpeace served a statutory notice to the government of Indian to notify it that Dow, as the new owners of Union Carbide, is liable for the clean up of Bhopal and that it is violating Indian law by leaving the toxic waste at the Bhopal factory site. The Indian government said it agrees that the existence of hazardous chemicals at the site is illegal. On 23rd October 2002, Greenpeace presented Dow with technical guidelines that explained how to properly clean up the toxic site in Bhopal.