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Survivors of the Bhopal Industrial Disaster That Killed 20,000 in India Travel to Europe to Return Toxic Waste to Dow Chemical

StoryJanuary 08, 2003
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A group of 15 Greenpeace activists and survivors of the Bhopal industrial disaster were arrested yesterday in Amsterdam while giving something back to Dow Chemical: a few barrels of waste the chemical giant refuses to clean up.

The action comes 18 years after a chemical plant owned by Union Carbide — which was bought by Dow — leaked gas into the Indian city of Bhopal killing 20,000 and injuring half a million.

Yesterday the activists unloaded four barrels of waste transported from India aboard the Greenpeace ship "Arctic Sunrise" and delivered it to Dow’s largest chemical plant in Europe, near Terneuzen, the Netherlands.

The poisonous waste is only a fraction of hundreds of tons that have been strewn around the derelict pesticide plant in Bhopal since 1984.

For nearly two decades chemicals have leaked into the soil and ground water in and around the factory site. According to Greenpeace children born to survivors are still suffering health problems and 150,000 people are in urgent need of medical attention.

The action comes a week after Dow Chemical filed a lawsuit against a group of female survivors of Bhopal as well as Greenpeace for demonstrating against the company in Bhopal, India last month.

The lawsuit asks for $10,000 in damages from protesters who participated in the peaceful two-hour protest, claiming the women caused Dow employees "loss of work." The lawsuit also asks that activists be restrained from holding future demonstrations within 100 yards of the Dow offices.

In other Dow news, a month ago the Yes Men posted a parody press release of Dow Chemical on the 18th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. The deadpan statement, which many people took as real, explained that Dow could not accept responsibility for the disaster due to its primary allegiance to its shareholders and to its bottom line.

Within hours Dow successfully forced the Internet company Verio to shut down the Yes Men’s website as well as dozens of other unrelated websites on the New York server run by thing.net. That was in early December. Earlier this week Verio announced it was permanently terminating its contract with thing.net potentially leaving dozens of websites without a provider.

Guests:

  • Ganesh Nochur, campaign director for Greenpeace India in Delhi. He was arrested in the Netherlands on Tuesday.
  • Rashida Bi, leader of India’s largest group of Bhopal survivors. Her organization, a women’s trade union, was recently sued for protesting by Dow in Bombay. On Tuesday she was arrested.
  • Andy Bichlbaum, member of The Yes Men which developed a mock Dow Chemical site where it posted a press release explaining Dow’s inaction on the Bhopal disaster.

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