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Bhopal Activists in Ireland Seek Solidarity Against Dow Chemical

category international | environment | news report author Friday October 05, 2012 19:59author by Contaminated Crow Report this post to the editors

Highlighting the common issue of contamination with Fracking

Last week two activists from Bhopal in India came to Ireland seeking solidarity and support for their campaign to force the American transnational corporation Dow Chemical to take responsibility for toxic waste abandoned in Bhopal by Union Carbide, which Dow Chemical took over in 2001.

BHOPAL ACTIVISTS SEEK SOLIDARITY AGAINST DOW

Last week two activists from Bhopal in India came to Ireland seeking solidarity and support for their campaign to force the American transnational corporation Dow Chemical to take responsibility for toxic waste abandoned in Bhopal by Union Carbide, which Dow Chemical took over in 2001.

In December 1984 Bhopal suffered the world’s worst industrial disaster to date when between 8,000 and 10,000 people died when toxic gases leaked from a Union Carbide pesticides factory, while tens of thousands of people suffered long-term health damage from the gas leak, with the long-term death toll now estimated at 25,000. Union Carbide and the government of India came to an unjust settlement over the gas leak in 1989, without consulting the victims, which underestimated the deaths and injuries caused by the leak, ignored the issues of environmental harm and led to the dropping of criminal charges against Union Carbide. Since then the ill-effects caused by the leaked gases have been joined by those attributable to the ‘second Bhopal disaster’ –the poisoning of local water sources by toxic wastes abandoned at the pesticides factory.

The activists spoke at a meeting in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, organised jointly by Afri and local anti-fracking group Love Leitrim on Thursday 27th September and on the 29th at a one-day academic seminar in Dublin organised by the Department of Anthropology at NUI Maynooth and the Development Studies Centre at Kimmage Manor. Translation at the Manorhamilton meeting was done by Chandana Mathur from NUIM.

The activists represent two generations of those affected by the toxic disaster in Bhopal. Balkrishna Namdev is a survivor of the gas leak and lives in an area affected by the 1984 gas leak. A union organiser before the gas leak, he set up the Gas Affected Destitute Pensioners’ Front and has campaigned on Bhopal over the last 28 years. Safreen Khan comes from a younger generation of Bhopalis born since the gas leak: she lives in one of the areas affected by water contamination from the abandoned toxic waste at the factory and is a leader of the youth group Children Against Dow/Carbide.

Safreen Khan told the audience in Manorhamilton of some of the protests in which Children Against Dow/Carbide took part. In 2008 eight children from the group took part in a padyatra (long walk) from Bhopal to Delhi which took 37 days to cover the 800 kms involved. In Delhi they protested at the Prime Minister’s office wearing shrouds and chained themselves to railings at the Prime Minister’s residence: for the former the children were arrested and held in jail overnight while for the latter they were detained for eight hours in a police station. They were successful in their campaign, which had two demands, that the government deal with the water contamination and provide treatment for the gas-affected. The Prime Minister gave a written commitment that these issues would be addressed. This has resulted in some redress with attempts made to clean up water in some communities but medical treatment of the gas survivors is still unsatisfactory: while hospitals have been built, only those with money can get treatment, and most of those living near the factory were very poor. Protests in Bhopal have continued, leading to state repression: at last year’s anniversary protests, activists staged a rail roko (stop the trains) protest. Police baton-charged the protesters, who included very old women and young children.

Balkrishna Namdev reported that over the years the factory was in operation from 1969 to 1984 some 18,000 metric tonnes of toxic waste was dumped inside the factory: this has contaminated drinking water sources which are used by some 50,000 people. Until 2009 the government refused to accept there was a problem: The level of denial was such that the Minister for Gas Relief went on television and drank a glass of water and said “Look I’m fine”. Now that the government has been forced by the Bhopalis’ protests to recognise the water contamination, a new legal case is being placed before the Indian Supreme Court calling for Dow to be made responsible for cleaning up the factory site and the water contamination in Bhopal, while a new case against Dow has also been opened in New York.

The Bhopalis have also protested against Dow’ sponsorship of the Olympic Games: on 27th July when the Games opened they also had an alternative Olympics in Bhopal for children affected by the poisoned water. Dow sponsorship of the Olympics was not just for this set of Games, but will continue for 20 years, so this will be a long-term struggle for those who seek for justice in Bhopal.

Both speakers stressed that their campaign is not just about Bhopal: a key reason to carry on the struggle is to ensure there are no more Bhopals anywhere in the world. Both activists finished their talks with a call for solidarity actions on the 28th anniversary of the gas disaster on 3rd December this year.

The question and answer session that followed discussed whether governments can be trusted to regulate toxic activities by transnational corporations as well as the failure by corporations to provide information on the toxic chemicals they use: fracking companies have refused to provide details on the chemicals they inject under pressure into the ground, claiming these are trade secrets, while 28 years after the gas disaster in Bhopal, the responsible corporation still hasn’t revealed the mixture of gases that leaked from their factory and poisoned the people of Bhopal. Afri and Love Leitrim are hoping to organise a small solidarity action on this year’s anniversary of the gas leak.

For further information see:
www.bhopal.org - website of the Bhopal Medical Appeal
www.bhopal.net - website of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/publications/reports/the-bhopal-legacy-toxic-cont/" Greenpeace report on toxic chemicals dumped at Bhopal
www.bhopalmarathon.org Latest report on the Bhopal disaster due to be published next week
www.studentsforbhopal.org website of Students for Bhopal, USA
www.afri.ie - website of Afri
http://frackingfreeireland.org for Love Leitrim

author by serfpublication date Sat Oct 06, 2012 09:15Report this post to the editors

Previous short article on bhopal here on indymedia and accompanying links might be of interest:

http://www.indymedia.ie/article/95007

 
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