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Greenpeace Gives Dow Chemical Taste of Bhopal Waste

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Environmental News Service
January 7, 2003


Greenpeace and survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster in Bhopal, India today dumped poisonous waste collected from the disaster scene at the largest European operation of Dow Chemical, Dow Benelux in the southern Dutch town of Terneuzen. About 20 activists were arrested.

Ten Greenpeace activists, including John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace in the United States, and Rashida Bi, leader of the Bhopal Gas Victim Women's Union, unloaded 250 kilograms of the waste. Three activists abseiled down the Dow Benelux building and hung eight huge photographs depicting Bhopal and a banner which called on Dow to clean up Bhopal.

Contained in seven barrels, the waste was abandoned in Bhopal after the release of poisonous gas in 1984, and it has been poisoning people there. The waste was transported to Europe in the Greenpeace ship "Arctic Sunrise."

The hazardous waste returned today is a tiny part of the hundreds of tons that have been strewn around the derelict Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal. Dow acquired Union Carbide in February 2001.

In 1984 a toxic gas leak at the plant killed 8,000 people and injured half a million. No one has accepted responsibility for the waste or cleaned up the site.

In November, the Bhopal Municipal Corporation said water near the factory, where some 20,000 people live, is not safe to drink.

Also in November, Dow Chemical was forced by a U.S. court to release internal Union Carbide documents showing safety features at Bhopal were eliminated in order to save money, the British journal "New Scientist" reports. Union Carbide documents revealed that by 1989, the company suspected that the factory grounds were contaminated by hazardous chemicals.

"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," Greenpeace says.

A new report released by Greenpeace today presents more evidence of 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," said Ganesh Nochur, campaigner from Greenpeace India onboard the "Arctic Sunrise."

In November 2002, activists from Greenpeace and the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal 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.

The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal is calling on Dow to clean up the site, provide people with clean drinking water, long term medical care and full compensation.

The campaign is urging international legislation to be put in place to make sure companies are held responsible for the pollution or accidents their operations cause.


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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.