Greenpeace confronts Dow Chemical with poison from corporate crime scene

Bhopal survivors call for justice

Press release - 7 January, 2003

Greenpeace and survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster in Bhopal, India, return poisonous waste collected from the disaster scene at the former Union Carbide plant in Bhopal to it's owner, Dow Benelux in the Netherlands

At midday today, Greenpeace and survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster in Bhopal, India, started returning poisonous waste collected from the disaster scene to its rightful owner, Dow Chemical. The waste was abandoned in Bhopal in 1984 and has been poisoning people there ever since.

Ten Greenpeace activists, including John Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace in the U.S. and Rashida Bi, leader of the Bhopal Gas Victim Women's Union, all constituents of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (1), unloaded 250 kg of the waste safely contained in seven barrels (2) from the Greenpeace ship 'Arctic Sunrise' and started delivering it to Dow's largest European operation, Dow Benelux in the Netherlands. 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. (3)

"We'll carry on confronting Dow with this corporate crime until it cleans up its toxic fallout in Bhopal and stops poisoning us (4). 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.

The poisonous waste returned today 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 (5), 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.

A new report released by Greenpeace today (6) 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 (7).


(1) The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal is comprised of 18 non-government organisations from Bhopal and around the world.

(2) The toxic waste has been safely contained in shock proof, airtight barrels.

(3) Photos are taken by Raghu Rai and are part of a travelling exhibition " Exposure: Portrait of a corporate crime".

(4) In November 2002, Greenpeace and the ICJB were arrested when they attempted to start cleaning up the toxic waste in Bhopal. On December 2nd 2002, they returned samples of contaminated soil and water from around the plant to Dow's Indian headquarters in Bombay. Dow is now suing the Bhopal survivors and Greenpeace for loss of working time allegedly incurred by this non-violent direct action.

(5) Dow acquired Union Carbide in February 2001. Despite growing evidence that Union Carbide cut safety measures at its Bhopal plant that it insisted on at its sister plant in the US, and knew of the contamination at the Bhopal site, Dow continues to claim that Union Carbide "has done what it needs to do to pursue the correct environment, health and safety programs" in Bhopal. See 'Poison Papers' at

(6) Download the new Greenpeace report Chemical Stockpiles at Union Carbide India Limited in Bhopal: an investigation. Download guidelines on how to clean up Bhopal.

(7) Download the Greenpeace report 'Corporate Crimes' for the Ten Bhopal Principles on Corporate Accountability, launched at the Earth Summit last August where governments agreed to the need for a global instrument on corporate accountability.