Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dow ready to wash Bhopal sin in Bihar flood water

Amidst reports of consideration of the investment proposals of Dow Chemical by Indian government, the Houston based chemical giant announced a sum of INR 1,0000000 for providing relief and assistance to the flood victims in Bihar.

Dow chemicals acquired Union Carbide, the company better known as the tormentor of many people in Bhopal. Over 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked from a pesticide plant of UC in Bhopal killing at least 3,800 people and affecting many more. Frequently cited as the world's worst industrial disaster, the Bhopal gas leak holocaust, took place in 1984.

Dow Chemical would also provide 3 water treatment systems which will convert the contaminated ground water into pure drinking water, fit for human consumption, the company said.

"Dow Chemical's decision to render support to the Bihar flood victims emerges from the Company's global commitment to work towards sustainability and overall progress of the societies in which it works," Dow India President and CEO Rameshchandran said in a statement.

But, Dow is reluctant to compensate fully to victims of Bhopal gas tragedy even after the 24 years passed since the tragedy. Dow has been maintaining shamelessly that it was not accountable for the Bhopal Gas tragedy, although it had acquired UC. “UC India was sold in 1991 to Eveready and the plant was taken over by Madhya Pradesh government. When we acquired the operations of UC globally, except India in 2001, its entity in the country was no longer existent,” he said.

On their website Dow claims that the tragedy was an act of sabotage instead of the safety failure. The damage it had done to the lives of people and eco-system are beyond imagination. Those who survived the holocaust are still feeling the pinch and deformity in their offspring could make anyone choked but, Dow has no guilt and nothing to offer.

Bhopal gas victims trekked to New Delhi twice in last two years and petitioned the government about their agony. The PMO's statement in June this year said that the matter of legal action against Dow Chemicals on environment and health of the surviving victims is still pending before the Madhya Pradesh High Court. "The department of chemicals and petrochemicals has already filed an application requesting the court to direct Dow Chemicals and associated companies to deposit Rs.100 crore (Rs.1 billion) as an advance for environmental remediation," the statement added.

Survivors say the plant site still contains around 5,000 tons of toxic chemicals and that chemicals have contaminated soil and water up to five kilometres (three miles) away. The survivors want Dow Chemical to pay for the clean-up and health damages. Dow says all liabilities were settled in 1989 when Union Carbide paid $ 470 million.
Union Carbide and its former chairperson Warren Anderson, both of whom face charges of culpable homicide and grievous assault, are absconding from Indian courts since 1992. No fresh attempts have been made by the government to enforce their appearance in court.

The toll has since climbed to more than 15,000. But activists say the number of fatalities is double that. They also say people still face health problems because of drinking toxic water and tens of thousands are chronically ill.

Despite all the hullabaloo government allowed Dow to invest about $200 million in India with two manufacturing sites.

Dominique Lapierre, the celebrated author written a book on the tragedy called "five past midnight in Bhopal" and is co-authored by his nephew javier moro and documents the human aspect of the bhopal gas tragedy of 1984. "I wanted to ensure that the incident was never forgotten, that everyone would remember this worst-ever man made disaster, which was also so avertable," said Dominique.

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