Ray of hope for survivors of the Bhopal disaster
The Dow Chemical Company has been ordered to appear before a Bhopal court to explain why its wholly owned subsidiary Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) had repeatedly ignored court summons in the ongoing criminal case concerning the 1984 chemical disaster.
The devastating gas leak at the Bhopal pesticide plant in India was estimated to have killed more than 22,000 and left another 100,000 suffering from health problems.
The criminal charges were brought in 1987 against UCC who had repeatedly ignored court summons in India. In 2001, Dow bought UCC however it has continually denied responsibility for any UCC liability in relation to Bhopal.
The court summons was a victory for campaigners, for the survivors of Bhopal and a step forward in efforts to ensure corporate accountability for the disaster. So far tens of thousands of survivors and their families have yet to receive adequate compensation from UCC or the Indian government.
Other positive news for people living in Bhopal comes from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhi, which has released its action plan for the environmental remediation of the Bhopal site and surrounding areas.
Survivors and human rights campaigners have repeatedly called on Dow/UCC and the Indian government to address the ongoing environmental and health impact of prior operations at the site. But despite numerous studies finding soil and groundwater contamination at and around the site, little effective action has taken place to remediate the contamination. CSE's action plan offers hope after it brought together many of the organisations that had previously studied and reported on the contamination at Bhopal.
While the action plan is an NGO initiative, it has been agreed in collaboration with the Central Pollution Control Board, part of the Indian government's Ministry of Environment and Forests. This could represent a huge step forward towards making sure the people of Bhopal can finally live in a clean and healthy environment.
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