Yesterday marked the 25th Anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. As Amnesty International notes in their report Dodging Responsibility: Corporations, Governments and the Bhopal Disaster, “a quarter of a century later the community remains ravaged and is still campaigning for justice.”
Shortly before midnight on 2 December 1984 thousands of tonnes of deadly chemicals leaked from Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, central India. Around 7,000 and 10,000 people died in the immediate aftermath and a further 15,000 over the next 20 years. Nearly 25 years later, the site has not been cleaned up, the leak and its impact have not been properly investigated, more than 100,000 people continue to suffer from health problems without the medical care they need, and survivors are still awaiting fair compensation and full redress for suffering.
Union Carbide didn’t adequately take responsibility at the time of the accident, and even obstructed efforts to determine what chemicals were involved in the deadly accident.
While thousands were dying in Bhopal as a result of exposure to approximately 54,000 pounds of methyl isocyanate (MIC) and 26,000 pounds of reaction products, company officials denied that MIC was toxic. To this day Union Carbide has not named the reaction products that leaded with the MIC, hampering efforts to treat victims.
Even worse, Union Carbide “walked away from Bhopal without adequately cleaning up the factory site, leaving the victims to cope with the pollution.” As you can see near the end of this video, the poisons have seeped into their water supply. This disaster is still going on.
Indian courts tried to seek justice from Union Carbide:
In December 1991 the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Bhopal ordered Warren Anderson, then Chief Executive Officer of UCC, to appear in court to face charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder in connection with the gas leak. He did not appear. Efforts to extradite him from the USA have failed.
The Indian government has not been too responsive either:
A public interest litigation case brought in 2004, seeking clean up of the site and other rehabilitation measures, is still before the Madhya Pradesh High Court. Although the High Court ordered the government to clean up the site, the government has not done so and legal arguments about liability have dragged on in the courts.
US refuses to take responsibility as well:
Efforts by the victims to get redress through the US court system have also failed. Union Carbide’s legal team first argued that the Indian courts were a better forum for the case. The US District Court upheld the motion to send the Bhopal case to the Indian courts, on the condition that Union Carbide submit to the jurisdiction of the Indian courts. Union Carbide appealed against the condition. In a complete about-turn, the company then claimed in the appeals court that: “Indian courts, while providing an adequate forum, do not observe due process standards that would be required as a matter of course in this country.”
Meanwhile, Dow Chemical has taken over Union Carbide. They claim no responsibility also.
In February 2001 UCC became a wholly owned subsidiary of the Down Chemical Company (Dow). Even though Union Carbide continued to be a separate legal entity, its corporate identity and all of its business is fully integrated with that of Dow. Dow Chemicals has publicly stated that it has no responsibility for the leak and its consequences or for the pollution of the plant.
Amnesty International is calling for both India and Dow Chemicals to take responsibility, and has online actions for both at:
Read AI’s report, Dodging Responsibility: Corporations, Governments and the Bhopal Disaster at:
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal: http://www.bhopal.net/
25 years is too long for no clean up and no accountability!