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Bhopal Survivors Protest Dow's Presence at the World Summit on Sustainable Development

International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal
August 28th, 2002

For Immediate Release
Contact:
Amit Srivastava, CorpWatch
+27 (0)72 477 2267 (Johannesburg)

Johannesburg -- Representatives of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal are opposed to the participation of US multinational Dow Chemical Company at the WSSD and condemned the company's attempts to "greenwash the worst corporate crime in history." They also had harsh words for the UN for its failure to provide any support to the victims of the world's worst industrial disaster.

Rashida Bee, a leader of the organization of the victims of Bhopal disaster and other activists from India, USA, Philippines and South Africa addressed a press conference at NASREC today. Over 900 people from USA, UK, France, Italy, China, South Africa and other countries are currently part of a worldwide hunger strike in support of the demands of the victims of Bhopal. In a show of solidarity, Diane Wilson scaled Dow Chemical's plant in Seadrift, Texas on Monday and unfurled a banner: "Dow -- Responsible for Bhopal!"

In December 1984, over half a million people in Bhopal, India were exposed to lethal gases that leaked from Union Carbide's pesticide factory. Over 8,000 people were killed in its immediate wake and the current death toll is over 20,000. Over 150,000 of the survivors remain chronically ill and official figures show that over 30 persons are dying every month nearly 18 years after the disaster. Research studies have documented congenital malformations among children born to gas exposed parents and there is an alarming rise in cancers and tuberculosis in the exposed population.

Unsafe location of the factory, hazardous design and cost-cutting in operation, maintenance and safety were found to be the main causes of the disaster by the Indian government's prosecution agency. The factory was closed immediately after the disaster but the poisoning continues in Bhopal. Over 20,000 people in the neighborhood of the abandoned factory are forced to drink water contaminated with chemical waste dumped in and around the factory premises. The international environmental organization Greenpeace has declared it a "global toxic hot spot" on the basis of analysis of soil and water samples from the area.

Union Carbide and its officials, including former Chairman Warren Anderson, were charged with homicide by the Indian government but the accused continue to abscond from the ongoing criminal case in Bhopal.

In February 2001, Dow Chemical merged with Union Carbide to become the largest chemical corporation in the world. The company has refused to accept criminal liabilities of the Bhopal disaster it has inherited through the merger.

Demands for long term medical relief, economic rehabilitation and clean up of the contamination presented before the CEO of Dow in May this year were turned down. William Stavropoulos, president of Dow Chemical, is participating in the WSSD as a member of the executive committee of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

"Dow Chemical has no business talking sustainable development because it continues to poison people on Bhopal and prolongs their suffering through deliberate neglect of medical relief," said Rashida Bee. The campaigners also criticized the UN for its inaction on Bhopal and for "colluding" with the chemical giant. "WHO and UNICEF and other UN agencies have remained silent spectators of the tragedy in Bhopal for the last 18 years and now the UN is helping Dow to build its image as a caring company. That makes the UN an accomplice in the crime against humanity in Bhopal," said Satinath Sarangi, a Bhopal based activist.

Opposing the corporate agenda of voluntary self-regulation, Amit Srivastava of US-based CorpWatch and Von Hernandez from Greenpeace emphasized the need for binding regulatory framework for corporations. "Without binding international laws to hold corporations accountable, there will be many more Bhopals in the world," said Srivastava.

Virginia Setshedi of the Anti Privatization Forum in Johannesburg also condemned "the hijacking of the WSSD by multinational corporations who put profit before people and nature."