Greenpeace calls on Dow to end Bhopal tragedy

Survivors of disaster travel to Europe to seek justice

Press release - 6 November, 2002

Greenpeace activists and crew members of the Greenpeace ship MV Esperanza display a banner in front of the DOW Italia gate in Livorno, Italy

As the European Social Forum meeting opened in Florence, Italy today, Greenpeace called on corporate criminal, Dow Chemical, to clean up hundreds of tonnes of dangerous toxic chemicals in Bhopal, India that have been poisoning survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster for eighteen years, and to fully compensate the survivors.

15 activists from the Greenpeace ship "MV Esperanza", climbed a storage tank at the Dow Italia plant in Livorno and unfolded two banners, one depicting a skull with the Dow logo in place of the eyes and another that read "Dow Pay Your Debt for Bhopal".

The"MV Esperanza" sailed to the Mediterranean from South Africa where delegates attending the Earth Summit in Johannesburg agreed in principle to establish an international regime to hold corporations accountable for damages and compensation for victims of industrial disasters and damage to the environment.

"While the Social Forum discusses building a society centred on the human being, people are being poisoned because Dow Chemical is refusing to accept liabilities in Bhopal. In an increasingly globalised world, corporations like Dow must use consistent standards to protect people around the globe, whether it be in Europe or elsewhere. If this disaster had happened in Europe or the U.S., the site would have been cleaned and people fully compensated," said Greenpeace toxics campaigner, Vittoria Polidori.

Greenpeace activists also accompanied two survivors of the Bhopal disaster to the headquarters of Dow Italy in Milan this morning where they visited the affiliate's Chief Executive Officer. Rashida Bee, representative of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, and Mohammad Ali Quaisser, doctor at the Bhopal Sambhavana Hospital, created to provide free medical assistance to survivors of the disaster, have travelled from Bhopal to Europe to meet managers of Dow offices in an attempt to seek justice.

Union Carbide, now owned by Dow, (1) abandoned the chemicals at its pesticide plant in Bhopal after a toxic gas leak in 1984 killed 8,000 people within three days and injured half a million. A further 12,000 people have died since and 120,000 are still in need of medical attention. The chemicals have leached into the soil around the site and have contaminated groundwater that is still used by local people for washing and drinking (2). So far, Dow has refused to accept Union Carbide's pending liabilities for environmental and human rights violations in Bhopal.

"Let's start globalising people's right to a clean and healthy environment by making sure Dow cleans up Bhopal according to the highest standards, provides health care and clean water to survivors and fully compensates the victims, " added Polidori.

Notes: 5??5¥001, Union Carbide shed its name by merging with Dow Chemical, making Dow the world's biggest chemical company. In buying Union Carbide for US$9.3 billion, Dow not only bought the company's assets but also its liabilities in Bhopal.(2) In 1999, Greenpeace and Bhopal community groups visited the abandoned factory to assess the environmental condition of the site and its surroundings. The team documented the presence of stockpiles of toxic pesticides as well as hazardous wastes and contaminated material scattered throughout the factory site. The survey found substantial and, in some locations, severe contamination of land and water supplies with heavy metals and chlorinated chemicals.Greenpeace will conduct a seminar on the need for an international instrument on corporate liability, focussing on Dow as a case study, at the European Social Forum in Florence on 9th November.