Toxic waste from Bhopal disaster scene returned to Dow Chemical in Europe

Dow talks of building trust while thousands are poisoned

Press release - 21 January, 2003
As business leaders and world governments gather in Davos for this week's World Economic Forum, thirty Greenpeace activists, constituent of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, delivered eighteen barrels of poisonous waste collected from Bhopal, India to Dow's European headquarters in Horgen, Switzerland today.

Thirty Greenpeace activists, constituent of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, delivered eighteen barrels of poisonous waste collected from Bhopal, India to Dow's European headquarters in Horgen, Switzerland today.

As the waste was delivered, people beat drums displaying a message urging the U.S. chemical giant to stop poisoning people and to clean up its toxic mess in Bhopal. The police prevented the activists from flying a hot air balloon in the form of the Earth over the industrial site.

"For Dow to show it's face at this week's World Economic Forum and discuss building trust while it's complicit in the death of thousands of people living around the site of the world's worst industrial disaster, is sickening. If corporations such as Dow want to engender trust, they should stop the smooth words and accept responsibility for the pollution and disasters they cause and stop poisoning people," said Ganesh Nochur from Greenpeace in India, speaking outside Dow's European headquarters.

The 300 kg of waste delivered to Dow's European headquarter today is just a fraction of hundreds of tonnes that have lain strewn around the derelict pesticide plant in Bhopal since 1984 when Union Carbide, which was taken over by Dow in 2001, fled the city after a gas leak at the plant killed 8,000 people and injured half a million. 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.

No-one has accepted responsibility for the toxic waste or cleaned it up so it has leaked into the soil and water in the area and is poisoning local people. The inaction continues even though confidential internal Union Carbide documents, recently released by the U.S. courts, show that the company knew about the toxic problem at its Bhopal site but misled the public and the Indian authorities by saying the site was clean. (1)

Greenpeace has been researching the levels of contamination in and around the disaster site in Bhopal for several years. Its most recent research (2) found a number of dangerous toxic substances in the waste including the pesticide Sevin 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.

"Each of the eighteen barrels of toxic waste we're delivering to Dow today represents a year that it has been left to poison people in Bhopal. We will carry on reminding Dow around the world of its toxic legacy in Bhopal to make sure it accepts its responsibility and liabilities in and finally puts and end to the worst industrial tragedy of our times (3)," added Nochur.

Greenpeace is a member of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB), a coalition of survivors, non-governmental organisations and individuals around the world that are 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. The ICJB 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. (4)

VVPR info: Video of today's action are available on request from Greenpeace International on + 31 20 524 9509Photos of today's action and images of Bhopal taken by Magnum photographer Raghu Rai, are available from Greenpeace International on + 31 20 524 9580

Notes:

(1) Despite growing evidence that Union Carbide cut safety measures at its Bhopal plant that it insisted on at its sister plant in the U.S., 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 www.greenpeace.org or 'Poison Papers' at www.bhopal.net

(2) See the new Greenpeace report see http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/planet-2/report/2003/1/chemical-stockpiles-at-union-c.pdf. For guidelines on how to clean up Bhopal see http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/planet-2/report/2002/10/technical-guidelines-for-clean.pdf

(3) Greenpeace has returned Bhopal toxic waste to Dow's biggest European plant in the Netherlands (January 7th 2003), to Dow's factory in Map Tha Phut, Thailand (December 2nd 2002). On 2nd December 2002, Greenpeace and Bhopal survivors delivered contaminated soil and water gathered from communities that live around the derelict factory site in Bhopal and delivered it to Dow India's headquarters in Bombay. Dow has taken out an injunction against survivors of the disaster and is attempting to fine them 500,000 Indian rupees (10,000 USD).

(4) See the Greenpeace report 'Corporate Crimes' (http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/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.

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