Groups Worldwide Remember Bhopal Disaster, Urge Dow to Clean Up Site

Dec. 3, 2009
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal chemical disaster, thousands of supporters around the world will participate in an International Day of Action on Dec. 3 to pressure Dow Chemical, the current owner of Union Carbide, to clean up the water in Bhopal and face criminal charges in India.

The Day of Action includes mass rallies, symbolic “die-ins,” candlelit vigils, concerts, protests and more. Participants are honoring the night in 1984 when 27 tons of lethal gases leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide factory, immediately killing an estimated 8,000 people and poisoning thousands of others. The area never was cleaned up, and nearly 150,000 people, including children of survivors, are suffering as a result.

Two new reports by the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment and the UK-based Bhopal Medical Appeal confirm a second chemical disaster in Bhopal, caused by contamination of soil and groundwater by Carbide's toxic wastes. The BMA report, incorporating results of three water samples tested in a Swiss laboratory, found that levels of carbon tetrachloride and chloroform in the groundwater has increased over the years. This, according to BMA, indicates that the Union Carbide site has been leaking poisons for more than 2 decades.

“Bhopal cannot be ignored any longer,” said Shana Ortman, U.S. coordinator for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. “Dow prides itself on a commitment to the ‘human element’ yet they are ignoring the people who are suffering the most due to the company’s own inaction.”

Global Action

Over 150 actions are being planned around the globe, from Bhopal to London, from San Francisco to Tel Aviv, for the 25th anniversary of the disaster. Highlights of the International Day of Action include:

  • The Yes Men will lead an action in New York City with hundreds of students who will spell out “DOW” while others hold signs saying, “Clean up Bhopal.”
  • Steven Volan, a member of the Bloomington, Ind., city council, will propose a resolution that is poised to become the strongest U.S. city resolution about Bhopal ever passed.
  • Twenty-five people will “die-in” in Union Square in San Francisco, holding visuals from Bhopal. Each participant represents 1,000 people who died in Bhopal on Dec. 3, 1984 and in the subsequent years.
  • Amnesty International and Students for Bhopal in Toronto will hold a peaceful rally and vigil with speakers outside the Indian consulate.
  • Boston 4 Bhopal will host a “Fast for Bhopal” rally in Copley Square. Participants will fast, sign petitions, exhibit photos and stage a “die-in.”
  • In Berlin, a 9-hour vigil at the Brandenburg Gate and the Indian Embassy will feature information, performances and petitioning.
  • The Bhopal Medical Appeal led a Dec. 2 gathering in London at 3 p.m., which equates, in Indian time, the point at which the disastrous chain of events began.
  • Amnesty International led two online actions on Dec. 2 – sending emails to the Dow Chemical Corporation and to the prime minister of India.
  • Thousands of supporters will be asked to call members of the Dow Board of Directors, calling on them to face their responsibilities in Bhopal.
  • Over 100 actions will take place across India, including a massive rally from Bhopal’s Bharat Talkies to the Union Carbide factory.

All of these groups, including the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, demand that:

  • The Indian government clean up Bhopal now to prevent further spread of the toxins, and use the courts to get reimbursed by Dow.
  • Dow’s subsidiary, Union Carbide, show up in court to face trial in the ongoing criminal proceedings against them in India.
  • The Indian Government establish the “empowered commission” that they promised in August 2008 to address the health, environmental, social and economic issues in Bhopal.
  • The Indian Government finish building pipelines to bring clean water to the people in and around Bhopal immediately.

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