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E-M:/ Bhopal Survivors Protest - Bring Demands to Dow Chemical Meeting



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Enviro-Mich message from Tracey Easthope <tracey@ecocenter.org>
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Dow recently merged with Union Carbide, the company responsible for the
worst industrial disaster in history.  Victims say that contamination remains,
and they have not been adequately compensated.  Two victims, on a hunger
strike, will bring their demands to Dow's annual shareholder meeting in
Midland on May 8.

If you'd like to participate in a one day fast in solidarity, you can visit
http://www.bhopal.net/hungerstrike2003.html


Bhopal Survivors Start Indefinite Fast in City Against Dow Chemical's 
Injustices

NEW YORK, 1 May, 2003 -- Two women survivors -- Rasheeda Bee and 
Champa Devi -- and long-time Bhopal activist, Satinath Sarangi, of 
the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) launched an 
indefinite fast from New York's financial district to highlight the 
truth behind Dow Chemical and Union Carbide's liabilities in Bhopal. 
In 1984, a poisonous gas leak from Union Carbide's pesticide factory 
killed 8000 in a matter of days. Survivors continue to suffer 
long-term health effects, and Carbide's toxic wastes strewn around 
the factory are a source of ongoing contamination and injury.

"Dow has acquired Carbide's pending criminal and environmental 
liabilities in Bhopal that could be substantial in dollar terms. By 
refusing to acknowledge and address these liabilities, the company is 
prolonging the suffering of survivors and their children, and keeping 
its shareholders in the dark regarding issues that could 
significantly erode share value," ICJB said.

"A hunger strike is our way of emphasizing the truth that the tragedy 
in Bhopal continues, and that Dow as Carbide's new owner is now 
responsible for ensuring that justice is done in Bhopal," said 
Rasheeda Bee of the Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationery Workers 
Association. Forty six-year old Bee has lost five gas-exposed family 
members to cancers since the disaster. Partially blinded, she suffers 
psychiatric and respiratory problems due to exposure to Carbide's 
gases. Eight days into the hunger strike, the Bhopal activists will 
visit Midland, Michigan, to demonstrate outside the Dow shareholders 
meeting on 8 May.

At least 30 other people, including 24 students from 
Massachusetts-based Wheaton College, and long-time Bhopal supporters 
from India and the United States fasted in solidarity today. The 
worldwide relay fast is expected to attract hundreds of people from 
around the world to join in protest against Dow Chemical. A similar 
fast begun last July lasted more than a month and involved 1500 
people from 10 countries. ICJB has declared May 8 as the day of mass 
action including hunger strikes organised by allies around the world.

In February 2001, Dow Chemical acquired Union Carbide. Carbide 
currently faces criminal charges for manslaughter in a Bhopal court 
for the deaths of more than 8,000 people in Bhopal, India, due to a 
poisonous gas leak from its pesticide factory in December 1984. The 
company has never appeared in court.

Dow Chemical has denied having inherited any of Carbide's pending 
Bhopal liabilities. Meanwhile, the Indian Central Bureau of 
Investigation will report to the Bhopal court on progress made in 
including Dow as an accused in the criminal case against Carbide by 
30 May. If found guilty, Indian criminal law allows for the 
imposition of fines against the accused.

"Under Indian law, the fines for manslaughter have no upper limit, 
and is determined by the size and ability of the accused party to 
pay, the magnitude of the crime, and the current state of the 
victims," said Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information 
and Action. Dow is the world's largest chemical corporation with 
annual sales exceeding $30 billion. Billed as the world's worst 
industrial disaster, the Bhopal tragedy injured 500,000 people, and 
survivors and their children are impoverished and continue to suffer 
drastic long-term effects in the absence of economic rehabilitation 
measures and appropriate medical care. According to latest official 
estimates, 380 gas-affected people succumb to health effects each 
year, and more than 20,000 are exposed to the toxic wastes lying in 
and around the Union Carbide factory site in Bhopal.

On April 25, 2003, survivors and survivors' organizations appealed a 
recent decision by the New York District Court to dismiss their 
claims for clean-up and compensation for contamination-related 
damages from Carbide. The State Government of Madhya Pradesh too has 
stated that it plans to approach the Indian Supreme Court in a bid to 
get Dow to clean up the toxic wastes left behind by its subsidiary 
Union Carbide.

Separately, various communities impacted by Dow's pollution, 
including an African American community in Plaquemine, Louisiana, 
Vietnam Veterans, and some residents of Saginaw County near Dow's 
Midland headquarters, are seeking redress for environmental, health 
or property damages due to Dow products or operations.   In addition, 
a stockholder has proposed a resolution at Dow's 2003 AGM asking the 
company to report to shareholders on identifying potential 
liabilities related to the company's operations, given the company's 
historical and ongoing engagement in processes known to produce or 
release persistent toxic substances such as dioxins. The proposal 
stems from findings of high levels of dioxin contamination in Midland 
and surrounding areas.

"Dow has a lot of Bhopals in its closet. Dow's failure to address its 
responsibilities to communities is clearly an issue of environmental 
justice, because its pollution has disproportionately impacted poor
communities worldwide, and communities of color in the United 
States," said Gary Cohen, director of Boston-based Environmental 
Health Fund and a member of the ICJB.

The visiting survivors and members of the ICJB have sought a meeting 
with Dow Chairman William Stavropoulos on 8 May to press their 
demands that: Dow should arrange for long-term economic and medical 
rehabilitation and medical monitoring; for clean-up of toxic wastes 
and contaminated groundwater; and face trial in the Indian courts.

For more information, visit: www.bhopal.net
In the US:
Nityanand Jayaraman. Cell: 520 906 5216. Email: nity68@vsnl.com
Krishnaveni G. Cell: 832 444 1731. krishnaveni_g@sbcglobal.net
In the UK: Tim Edwards. Email: tim@lifecycle.demon.co.uk
In Bhopal, India: Rachna Dhingra. Email: rachna@umich.edu

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