Posts Tagged ‘Union Carbide’

Global: Entwicklungsländer fordern Entschädigung für Umweltkatastrophen

Dienstag, August 24th, 2010

Pay Developing Nations For Eco-Disasters

The $20bil put aside by BP to pay for the effects of the Gulf oil spill contrasts with the lack of accountability of big firms that cause environmental harm in developing countries.

In a widely publicised move in June, the United States’ President Barrack Obama succeeded in getting the oil company BP to set aside US$20 billion into a fund to meet claims for compensating losses arising from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

It is extraordinary that a giant company has been pressurised by a government to agree to pay so much. The funds will be used to meet claims for economic losses of local people in the Gulf Coast states whose incomes have been lost due to the spill (for example the tourist business has collapsed) and to pay the cost for the environmental clean up.

Another US$100 million fund will be set up to pay workers laid off due to suspension of offshore drilling. BP will also suspend paying dividends so that there is enough cash for the new funds.

A US Congress committee also grilled the CEO of BP Tony Hayward for seven hours.

Obama’s move and BP’s agreement to compensate were clearly the result of the growing anger of Americans at both BP and the government, which had lax or absent implementation of safety regulations.

Americans are angry that it has taken so many months to fix the problem. Meanwhile 11 oil workers died in the rig explosion, a lot of marine life will perish and many thousands of local people will have their livelihoods damaged.

It may indeed be the United States’ worst ever environmental disaster. But there have been much worst ecological catastrophes in developing countries, caused by giant companies, many of them American.

Many more lives were lost and livelihoods damaged, and the environmental cost has been higher. But little if any compensation has been paid by these companies. And the governments of the countries in which the companies are headquartered have turned a blind eye.

Bhopal, India

The most outstanding case is that of Bhopal in which the emission of poisonous gas from US-owned company Union Carbide in that Indian town in 1984 affected half a million people, killed 2,300 people immediately, with another 15,000 to 30,000 dying subsequently and many thousands of others maimed seriously. Even now the land and water in the vicinity continue to be contaminated with toxic chemicals that affect human health.

The factory was then owned by the US company Union Carbide, which in 2001 was taken over by Dow Chemical. The Bhopal factory was sold to a local firm in 1992.

Union Carbide never accepted responsibility for the disaster, and neither has Dow. An arrest warrant for Union Carbide’s then chairman Warren Anderson was issued in India but he has not been brought to trial.

Union Carbide paid US$470 million in a deal in 1989 with the Indian government, but this is a small amount, given the enormous numbers of people who died, were injured and continue to suffer.

On 7 June this year, an Indian court found 7 former executives of the Indian subsidiary of the company guilty of negligence and they were given sentences of two years’ jail, which is being appealed against. According to reports from India, the Bhopal residents and their supporters are dismayed by such a light sentence, and that they are still waiting for proper compensation.

However, the court case and perhaps Obama’s actions on BP have spurred new actions in India.

The Indian government on 24 June announced enhanced compensation to the victims, an environmental clean-up plan, and to make new efforts to extradite Anderson to face court action in India.

The government is also exploring the possibility of new legal action to reconsider the $470 million fixed earlier in an out-of-court settlement between the government and Union Carbide, and later approved by the Supreme Court. A curative petition may be filed in the Supreme Court to seek higher consideration.

Ecuador Oil Dumping in Forest

A second case is that of the Ecuador, whose Amazon region was contaminated by oil and oil waste in amounts far larger than the Gulf Oil spill so far. The oil and waste was discharged by Texaco (bought over by Chevron in 2001) when it operated an oil concession in 1964-1990.

The New York Times in May 2009 reported indigenous people resident in the area saying that toxic chemicals had leaked into their soils, groundwater and streams, and that their children had died from the poisoning. It cited a report of an expert (contested by the company) who estimated that 1,400 people had died of cancer because of oil contamination.

The indigenous groups have taken a court case against Chevron for US$27 billon in damages. They accuse Chevron of dumping more than 345 million gallons of crude oil into the rainforest. Chevron is also said to have dumped 18.5 billion gallons of toxic waste in pits in the forests.

Experts sympathetic to the local people claim that the disaster has devastated their lands, income and health to a degree far larger than the BP spill in the Gulf.

US Congressman James P. McGovern, the vice-chairman of the House Rules Committee, visited Ecuador in 2009 and is reported to have written to Obama that “the degradation and contamination left behind by [Chevron] in a poor part of the world made me angry and ashamed… I also saw the infrastructure Texaco/Chevron created that allowed the wholesale dumping of formation water and other highly toxic materials directly into the Amazon and its waters.”

Niger Delta Oil Contamination

A third case is that of the Niger Delta in Nigeria, in which oil is extracted by Shell, Exxon and other giant companies.

An article in The Observer entitled “Nigeria’s agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill: The US and Europe ignore it”, describes how oil spilt from pipelines and other sources has contaminated swamps, rivers, forests and farmlands in the region.

“In fact, more oil is spilled from the delta’s network of terminals, pipes, pumping stations and oil platforms every year than has been lost in the Gulf of Mexico,” wrote John Vidal.

A report by environment groups calculated in 2006 that up to 1.5m tons of oil – 50 times the pollution unleashed in the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster in Alaska – has been spilled in the delta over the past half century. Last year Amnesty calculated that the equivalent of at least 9m barrels of oil was spilled and accused the oil companies of a human rights outrage.

On 1 May a ruptured ExxonMobil pipeline spilled more than a million gallons into the delta over seven days and thick balls of tar are being washed up along the coast. Local people blame the oil pollution for the fall in life expectancy in the rural communities to a littlle above 40 years.

According to the writer Ben Ikari, “This kind of spill happens all the time in the delta. The oil companies just ignore it. When I see the efforts that are being made in the US I feel a great sense of sadness at the double standards.”

“We see frantic efforts being made to stop the spill in the US,” said Nnimo Bassey, Nigerian head of Friends of the Earth International. “But in Nigeria, oil companies largely ignore their spills, cover them up and destroy people’s livelihood and environments. The Gulf spill can be seen as a metaphor for what is happening daily in the oilfields of Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

Compensation Must Be Accountable

These cases show a big contrast between what the US administration is doing to hold a multinational company financially accountable, and how similar companies that cause ecological catastrophes in developing countries are able to get away either freely or with grossly inadequate pay-outs.

What the US administration and Congress are doing to get BP to compensate for the environmental and economic damage it is causing is commendable and should be supported.

Developing countries should learn a lesson from the US and take similar action in line with the “polluter pays” principle.

And just as importantly, the governments of the home countries of the multinationals should also act to make their companies accountable for their actions when they operate in other countries, and to compensate adequately when they cause environmental damage.

There should be an international understanding or agreement among the governments to the effect that they will support one another to obtain redress from companies to compensate for the environmental damage fact they cause.

Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre.

He can be contacted at:

(Quelle: South Centre.)

Indien: Bhopal als Menetekel der Globalisierung

Montag, Juli 19th, 2010

“The killing fields of MNCs

By Vandana Shiva

The Bhopal gas tragedy was the worst industrial disaster in human history. Twenty-five thousand people died, 500,000 were injured, and the injustice done to the victims of Bhopal over the past 25 years will go down as the worst case of jurisprudence ever.
The gas leak in Bhopal in December 1984 was from the Union Carbide pesticide plant which manufactured ‘carabaryl’ (trade name ‘sevin’) — a pesticide used mostly in cotton plants. It was, in fact, because of the Bhopal gas tragedy and the tragedy of extremist violence in Punjab that I woke up to the fact that agriculture had become a war zone. Pesticides are war chemicals that kill — every year 220,000 people are killed by pesticides worldwide.
After research I realised that we do not need toxic pesticides that kill humans and other species which maintain the web of life. Pesticides do not control pests, they create pests by killing beneficial species. We have safer, non-violent alternatives such as neem. That is why at the time of the Bhopal disaster I started the campaign ‘No more Bhopals, plant a neem’. The neem campaign led to challenging the biopiracy of neem in 1994 when I found that a US multinational, W.R. Grace, had patented neem for use as pesticide and fungicide and was setting up a neem oil extraction plant in Tumkur, Karnataka. We fought the biopiracy case for 11 years and were eventually successful in striking down the biopiracy patent.
Meanwhile, the old pesticide industry was mutating into the biotechnology and genetic engineering industry. While genetic engineering was promoted as an alternative to pesticides, Bt cotton was introduced to end pesticide use. But Bt cotton has failed to control the bollworm and has instead created major new pests, leading to an increase in pesticide use.
The high costs of genetically-modified (GM) seeds and pesticides are pushing farmers into debt, and indebted farmers are committing suicide. If one adds the 200,000 farmer suicides in India to the 25,000 killed in Bhopal, we are witnessing a massive corporate genocide — the killing of people for super profits. To maintain these super profits, lies are told about how, without pesticides and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), there will be no food. In fact, the conclusions of International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, undertaken by the United Nations, shows that ecologically organic agriculture produces more food and better food at lower cost than either chemical agriculture or GMOs.
The agrochemical industry and its new avatar, the biotechnology industry, do not merely distort and manipulate knowledge, science and public policy. They also manipulate the law and the justice system. The reason justice has been denied to the victims of Bhopal is because corporations want to escape liability. Freedom from liability is, in fact, the real meaning of ‘free trade’. The tragedy of Bhopal is dual. Interestingly, the Bhopal disaster happened precisely when corporations were seeking deregulation and freedom from liability through the instruments of ‘free trade’, ‘trade liberalisation’ and ‘globalisation’, both through bilateral pressure and through the Uruguay Round of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which led to the creation of the World Trade Organisation.
Injustice for Bhopal has been used to tell corporations that they can get away with murder. This is what senior politicians communicated to Dow Chemical. This is what the US-India Commission for Environmental Cooperation forum stated on June 11, 2010, in the context of the call from across India for justice for Bhopal victims. As one newspaper commented, Bhopal is being seen as a ‘road block and impediment to trade… the recommendations include removing road blocks to commercial trade by (India), and adoption of a nuclear liability regime’.
Denial of justice to Bhopal has been the basis of all toxic investments since Bhopal, be it Bt cotton, DuPont’s nylon plant or the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill.
Just as Bhopal victims were paid a mere Rs 12,000 (approximately $250) each, the proposed Nuclear Liability Bill also seeks to put a ceiling on liability of a mere $100 million on private operations of a nuclear power plant in case of a nuclear accident. Once again, people can be killed but corporations should not have to pay.
There has also been an intense debate in India on GMOs. An attempt was made by Monsanto/Mahyco to introduce Bt brinjal in 2009. As a result of public hearings across the country, a moratorium has been put on its commercialisation. Immediately after the moratorium a bill was introduced for a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India —the bill does not only leave the biotechnology industry free of liability, but it also has a clause which empowers the government to arrest and fine those of us who question the need and safety of GMOs.
From Bhopal to pesticides to GMOs to nuclear plants, there are two lessons we can draw. One is that corporations introduce hazardous technologies like pesticides and GMOs for profits, and profits alone. And second lesson, related to trade, is that corporations are seeking to expand markets and relocate hazardous and environmentally costly technologies to countries like India.
Corporates seek to globalise production but they do not want to globalise justice and rights. The difference in the treatment of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical in the context of Bhopal, and of BP in the context of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico shows how an apartheid is being created. The devaluation of the life of people of the Third World and ecosystems is built into the project of globalisation. Globalisation is leading to the outsourcing of pollution — hazardous substances and technologies — to the Third World. This is at the heart of globalisation — the economies of genocide.
Lawrence Summers, who was the World Bank’s chief economist and is now chief economic adviser to the Obama government, in a memo dated December 12, 1991, to senior World Bank staff, wrote, ‘Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the less developed countries?’
Since wages are low in the Third World, economic costs of pollution arising from increased illness and death are least in the poorest countries. According to Mr Summers, the logic ‘of relocation of pollutants in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that’.
All this and Bhopal must teach us to reclaim our universal and common humanity and build an Earth Democracy in which all are equal, and corporations are not allowed to get away with crimes against people and the planet.

Dr Vandana Shiva is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

Copyright © 2010 The Asian Age. All rights reserved.”


(Quelle: Asian Age.)


Siehe auch:

International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal

Hoax interview by the Yes Men impersonating Dow Chemicals

Vietnam: USA speisen Agent Orange-Opfer ab

Donnerstag, Juli 15th, 2010

“Vietnam, US Still in Conflict over Agent Orange Burden

by Ben Stocking

(Photo: David Guttenfelder/Associated Press)
Tran Thi Gai’s daughters were born with disabilities in a Vietnamese village where Agent Orange was used.

CAM TUYEN, Vietnam — Her children are 21 and 16 years old, but they still cry through the night, tossing and turning in pain, sucking their thumbs for comfort.

Tran Thi Gai’s daughters were born with disabilities in a Vietnamese village where Agent Orange was used. (David Guttenfelder/Associated Press) Tran Thi Gai, who rarely gets any sleep herself, sings them a mournful lullaby. “Can you feel my love for you? Can you feel my sorrow for you? Please don’t cry.”

Gai’s children — both with twisted limbs and in wheelchairs — were born in a village that was drenched with Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. She believes their health problems were caused by dioxin, a highly toxic chemical in the herbicide, which US troops used to strip communist forces of ground cover and food.

Thirty-five years after the end of the Vietnam War, its most contentious legacy is Agent Orange. Eighty-two percent of Vietnamese surveyed in a recent Associated Press-GfK Poll said the United States should be doing more to help people suffering from illnesses associated with the herbicide, including children with birth defects.

After President George W. Bush pledged to work on the issue on a Hanoi visit in 2006, Congress approved $9 million mostly to address environmental cleanup of Agent Orange. But while the United States has provided assistance to Vietnamese with disabilities regardless of their cause, it maintains that there is no clear link between Agent Orange and health problems.

Vietnamese officials say the United States must make a much bigger financial commitment — $6 million has been allocated — to adequately address the problems unleashed by Agent Orange.

“Six million dollars is nothing compared to the consequences left behind by Agent Orange,” said Le Ke Son, deputy general administrator of Vietnam’s Environmental Administration. “How much does one Tomahawk missile cost?”

Between 1962 and 1971, the US military sprayed roughly 11 million gallons of Agent Orange across large swaths of southern Vietnam. Dioxin stays in soil and the sediment at the bottom of lakes and rivers for generations. It can enter the food supply through the fat of fish and other animals.

Vietnam says as many as 4 million of its citizens were exposed to the herbicide and as many as 3 million have suffered illnesses caused by it.

But the US government says Vietnamese are too quick to blame Agent Orange for birth defects that can be caused by malnutrition or other environmental factors.

“Scientists around the world have done a lot of research on dioxin and its possible health effects,” said Michael Michalak, the US ambassador in Hanoi. “There is disagreement as to what’s real and what isn’t, about what the possible connections are.”

© 2010 Associated Press”


(Quelle: CommonDreams.)

USA / Indien: BP und Bhopal

Samstag, Juli 10th, 2010

“BP and Bhopal

The Bitter Dregs of Unchecked Corporate Profiteering


President Obama in an area impacted by the Gulf Coast oil spill.


THE BP OIL SPILL in the Gulf of Mexico and the Bhopal verdicts handed down on 7 June converged last month to create a perfect storm of public outrage over the devastating consequences of unchecked corporate greed. In both cases, subservient governments made it all too easy for profit-seeking corporations to skimp on safety measures and emergency procedures they well knew should have been in place. In both cases, there were immediate fatalities: the thousands killed in Bhopal dwarfing the 11 workers killed in the initial explosion on the BP deep-water rig in the Gulf of Mexico. In both cases, the leak of toxic material, methyl isocyanate in the case of the Union Carbide pesticide plant and crude oil in the case of BP, have and will continue to cause death, disease, and injury among those exposed. Both were called the ‘worst environmental disaster in history.’

The shameless collusion of the Indian government and judiciary in protecting the American and Indian managers (one of whom, Kishore Kamdar, is no relation of mine) responsible for the 1984 gas leak is stunning. In the face of mass casualties totalling, according to Amnesty International, 22,000 men, women and children, the immediate response of the government of India was to spirit the American CEO, Warren Anderson, out of Bhopal and then help get him out of India as quickly as possible. In other words, the government’s priority was to rescue the American chief executive responsible for the leak, not to tend to its agonised victims. To date, it has done nothing to clean up the massive contamination of the area’s ground and water that continues to poison the resident population.

Subsequently, India’s judiciary conspired for 26 long years to minimise the financial cost and any criminal penalties against Union Carbide and its successor, the Dow Chemical Company. The Supreme Court accepted a settlement of a mere 470 million dollars from Union Carbide, after the government of India dropped an initial suit for 3.3 billion. It then kicked the criminal proceedings down to a lower court where the maximum penalty allowed would be ‘criminal negligence,’ a penalty more usually applied to traffic accidents. Of the eight Indian managers so charged, the seven still alive walked free on bail shortly after having received the lightest tap on the wrist: fines totaling 2,100 dollars each.

While Bhopal survivors raged after the verdicts were announced, the UPA government maintained a serene silence. Not a peep was heard from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a man whose proclaimed priority for India is hitting double-digit economic growth and who had previously fretted about ‘sending the wrong signal’ to corporate investors on which he depends to hit his target. It also came to light that the UPA government harbours great hopes for fresh investment from the Dow Chemical Company, Union Carbide’s inheritor. While Justice Minister Veerapa Moily opined that the case against Warren Anderson was not closed, there is no indication the UPA government wishes to have another go at extraditing the now 90-year-old Florida retiree, or that the Americans, who refused to do so in 2004, would move to do so now. Indeed, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Robert Blake expressed his wish that the piddling punishment handed out as a simulacrum of justice on 7 June would ‘help bring closure’ to the Union Carbide debacle.

The hypocrisy of the American diplomat’s remarks is as thick as the crude oil now filling the Gulf of Mexico and threatening to wash up on Warren Anderson’s retirement haven’s shores. The US government is currently beating its chest in fury over the negligence of BP in precipitating the oil spill on American shores. Expressing sentiments no Indian prime minister since 1984 has felt moved to express over Bhopal, President Obama not only said he was ‘furious,’ but that he was figuring out, according to remarks he made in an interview on the Today Show, ‘which asses to kick.’

The US administration is venting its ire by pushing to get rid of the current 75 million-dollar cap on liability for oil spills in favour of an unlimited cap. It has every interest in doing so: BP’s underwater leak, still pumping between 500,000 to 800,000 gallons of oil per day into the Gulf of Mexico, will destroy the ecology of the Gulf and its shorelines for decades at least. Hundreds of thousands of people are likely to lose their jobs—many already have—and local economies are beginning to hemorrhage losses anticipated to grow to the billions of dollars. The human health consequences of inhaling the fumes wafting off the polluted Gulf waters are only beginning.

Ah, but here the hypocrisy rubs particularly raw. Incredibly, the Obama administration, at the same time that it is lobbying to remove the cap on liability for oil spills in the US so it can go after BP for maximum compensation, is pressuring the Indian government to push through a Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage bill whose sole purpose is to protect US corporations. This bill was the top US priority at the Strategic Dialogue summit held with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Minister of External Affairs SM Krishna in Washington, DC last month.

Meanwhile, the United States is getting a taste of its own medicine. The new UK government has pushed back on the Obama administration’s threats against BP. With thousands of British pensioners invested in the oil giant, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have averred that BP must remain ‘financially strong and profitable.’ Like the banks to whose rescue previously pliant governments had to rush, BP, it is argued, is simply too big to fail.

What the BP and the Bhopal disasters reveal is the craven attitude of democratic governments toward powerful corporations whose devotion to maximising profits supercedes any human and environmental cost. Apparently, all corporations have to do is wield the temptation of financial investment, the promise of economic growth, and the boon of employment (some cash under the table often helps as well, depending on the country and the politician) to get the elected representatives of the people to wink-wink them past proportionate responsibility for the damages they wreak. Too often, governments see their primary duty as facilitating corporate activity whatever the human or environmental cost. Until governments return their allegiance to ordinary citizens, until they force corporations to respect tough regulations on health, safety and environmental protections and punish them with limitless liability and painful penalties when they fail, there will be more disasters like the BP oil spill and the Union Carbide poisonous gas leak. Only then will we know whether the perfect storm of BP and Bhopal’s tragic convergence will result in a real break from what has, for too long, been business as usual.”


(Quelle: The Caravan.)

USA: Haben die Agent Orange-Opfer des Vietnam-Kriegs vor Gericht eine Chance?

Mittwoch, Juni 16th, 2010

“Private panel to push $300 million cleanup of Agent Orange sites

Places contaminated by herbicide linked to illnesses in Vietnam and U.S. to be targeted in 10-year effort

By Jason Grotto, Tribune reporter

A prominent panel of private citizens, scientists and policymakers from the U.S. and Vietnam is set to unveil a plan Wednesday aimed at turning the page on a 40-year-old controversy over the health and environmental impact of Agent Orange and other herbicides used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.

The 10-year, $300 million plan calls for cleaning up more than two dozen sites scattered throughout South Vietnam that remain contaminated by dioxin-tainted herbicides once stored at former U.S. military installations. It also would expand health care and other services for people suffering from disabilities and other ailments linked to dioxin.

Building on recent scientific studies and small-scale efforts at cooperation between the two governments, the plan seeks greater financial and technical support from the U.S. government as well as private foundations and humanitarian groups. While many private groups have signed on to the plan, its drafters are hoping the federal government will shoulder the bulk of the costs.

‘This has been a contentious political issue for some time now,’ said Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute and a co-chairman of the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin. ‘We hope this report will defuse the politics and put the focus on solving this problem. It’s in our strategic and moral interests to finally put this behind us.’

As envisioned, the plan would be carried out in three phases. The first would last three years and cost $100 million, focusing on completing remediation in Da Nang, where a small contingent of U.S. and Vietnamese scientists have been working to clean up one of the largest contaminated sites. Once complete, the effort would be replicated at other highly contaminated sites.

The first phase would also include joint research between the two countries to evaluate the extent to which forests were damaged by the herbicides, eventually leading to greater support for Vietnamese efforts to reforest areas that were heavily impacted.

Finally, it would assist the Vietnamese in improving that nation’s health care system by creating a nationwide survey of disabled people as well as a birth defects registry to better target resources – without delving into contentious debates about whether the disabilities were cause by Agent Orange. The effort would also assist Vietnam to train health workers, screen expectant mothers and monitor child development.

‘The stage we’re at now, if you stand back, is that we have a plan that crystallizes this problem so that it doesn’t seem so vast and unsolvable,’ said Susan Berresford, who helped establish the Dialogue Group in 2007 as president of the Ford Foundation, which has supported scientific studies and humanitarian efforts in Vietnam since the late 1990s.

In December, the Tribune published a five-part series on the legacy of Agent Orange. Since then, the newspaper has documented the costs to U.S. taxpayers, who pay nearly $2 billion annually in disability compensation for U.S. veterans exposed to the herbicides. Another $20 million a year goes toward compensating about 1,200 children of veterans who suffer from spina bifida and other birth defects, according to data from the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Between 1961 and 1971, the military sprayed nearly 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and other herbicides across South Vietnam and along the borders of Cambodia and Laos. The chemicals were used to defoliate dense jungles and to destroy enemy crops.

Although some scientists remain skeptical that Agent Orange directly causes diseases and birth defects, hundreds of independent studies completed since the war ended have found strong evidence that people exposed to the chemicals are at greater risk of contracting illnesses.”

(Quelle: Chicago Tribune.)



In unserer Bücherei finden Sie weiterführende Literatur zum Thema “Agent Orange”-Einsatz durch die USA während des Vietnamkriegs.

Indien: Bhopal – Regierung deckte Union Carbide

Freitag, Juni 11th, 2010

Evidence of PMO’s Collusion with Dow Chemicals

Press Note

GoM on Bhopal’s Industrial Catastrophe Conflict of Interest Ridden

Evidence of PMO’s Collusion with Dow Chemicals

New Delhi: The 55 page PMO documents (PDF attached) gathered using Right To Information Act (RTI) shows manifest collusion between ministers, officials and Dow Chemicals to protect it from the liabilities of Industrial catastrophe of Bhopal. The documents reveal how some of the ministers who have been made part of Group of Ministers (GoM) by the Prime Minister have been acting to safeguard the interest of the US corporation in question, which is liable for Bhopal disaster.

The GoM that has been constituted does not inspire confidence. Notably, the GoM, headed by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, was constituted on May 26, 2010 by the PM’s Office. It is expected that notification of the same from the Cabinet Secretariat will be issued shortly. The documents gathered using RTI reveal how Chidambaram and Kamal Nath have already expressed their support for Dow Chemical Company’s proposal to save it from Union Carbide Corporation’s liability by seeking a Cabinet Secretary headed committee on a matter which is sub judice. Dow inherited the liability in 2001 after its merger Union Carbide.

The real issue arising out of Bhopal verdict that has necessitated the setting up GoM is its fallout on the proposed Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill that is pending in the parliament. It has emerged any future liability regime must include criminal liability and must not cap the amount of civil liability because the damage from a nuclear or chemical disaster depends on the direction and nature of the wind at the time of the accident.

Bhopal verdict reveals that no lessons have been learnt from Chernobyl nuclear disaster and Three Mile Island Nuclear Accident. It is sad that even Parliament’s standing committee on Environment, Forests, Science and Technology is frozen in its passivity be it with regard to Bhopal or nuclear liability. The Committee is under the chairmanship of T Subbiram Reddy who is on record in parliament to have opposed any liability arising out of asbestos exposures. Incidentally, the Dow Chemicals Company has set aside $2.2 billion to address future asbestos-related liabilities arising out of the Union Carbide acquisition. How is that Dow Chemicals can take the asbestos liability of Union Carbide and not the liability for the industrial catastrophe in Bhopal?.

The Supreme Court’s verdict in the WTO Case and the present apex court engineered order of the Court of Chief Judicial Magistrate of Bhopal demonstrates beyond doubt how Indian parliament, the premier law making law making institution appears to have become almost defunct. It must re-invent its role and assert its authority.

It is noteworthy that the convicts have been held guilty under Sections 304-A (causing death by negligence) instead of 304-II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the Indian Penal Code as per the original charge besides Sections 336, 337 and 338 (gross negligence).

It has become clearer that the corporations are undemocratic institutions by legal design makes them ungovernable and is making the very existence of democratic legislatures effete. Legislatures must be make them subservient to legislative will.

The Bhopal case provides a historic opportunity to democratic governments of US, India and others to ensure genuine legal remedy to set an example in order to give befitting reply to those who question the efficacy of representative democracy.

For Details:
Gopal Krishna
ToxicsWatch Alliance
New Delhi
Mb: 9818089660
Skype id: witnesskrishna

(Quelle: Countercurrents.)