A Prose Poem Editorial by Sanjay Verma
Why is Dow responsible for the situation?
No one disputes the fact that Dow bought Union Carbide after the disaster occurred.
But when Dow purchased Union Carbide, it took on liability for the Bhopal tragedy.
It would be terribly convenient for Dow and other massive corporations
if the slate was wiped clean when a company was purchased.
But Dow didn’t just buy the profit sheet,
the shares and the expertise from Union Carbide.
They also bought their legacy,
the environmental tragedy ofBhopal
and the responsibility for it.
Dow must ensure that the site is cleaned up,
the victims finally get true justice and proper compensation.
If a company could escape liability for its malpractices
by arranging a merger or takeover,
then companies would be able to abuse human rights
and damage the environment with impunity.
What happened in Bhopal?
On December 2-3, 1984, as the people of the central Indian town of Bhopal slept, an explosion caused over 40 tons of a deadly toxic gas, methyl isocyanate (MIC), and other gases from the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant. The company executives could have warned the public, but instead they chose not to sound the emergency alarm bell in town.
The event occurred in the early hours of the morning of Dec 3rd 1984, at approximately 12:30 a.m. By 2am, most of the MIC had been dispersed over an area of 25 miles (40km), and the first deaths were reported to the police by 3am. By morning, there had been 1,000 reported deaths, some as far as 5 miles (8 km) from the plant. 90,000 patients were seen in local hospitals and clinics within the first 24 hours, and in total, about 200,000 people suffered acute effects of the leak.
The preventable Bhopal disaster has claimed over 20,000 lives, and it is not over yet because members of the community continue to suffer from chronic health problems, cancer and birth defects.
How has Dow responded?
Dow claims that it is not responsible for the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy in any way. Despite that, they hired the same public relations firm that worked to tell people tobacco didn’t cause cancer, and that Foxconn hired to repair its public image around working conditions in Apple factories in China.
Union Carbide paid $470 million in compensation to existing victims in 1989, amounting to less than $500 per victim whether they were blinded by the gas, developed terminal cancer from exposure, or suffered debilitating birth defects. To date, neither Union Carbide nor Dow has paid to clean up the site, and they have refused to even decommission the factory after the accident.