Dow Cannot Run from the Legacy of Bhopal by Sponsoring ‘Run For Water’ Events

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Dow Cannot Run from the Legacy of Bhopal by Sponsoring ‘Run For Water’ Events

WASHINGTON - The Dow Chemical Company (Dow) cannot
run from its responsibility for the ongoing impacts of the 1984 Bhopal
gas leak by sponsoring Live Earth ‘Run for Water’ events, Amnesty
International said today.

Thousands of people died and more than 100,000 continue to suffer
from serious health problems as a consequence of 1984’s deadly leak of
toxic chemicals from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India.
Dow became 100% owner of the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) in 2001.

Since then survivors and human rights groups have been campaigning
for Dow to address the ongoing impacts of the disaster, including
contamination of water by chemical waste, but the company has
consistently ignored these calls, denying any responsibility for UCC’s
liabilities in Bhopal.

On 18 April Dow is sponsoring a series of running events across the
globe, organized by environmental organization Live Earth to raise
awareness about water scarcity.

“Sponsoring an event that highlights water scarcity while ignoring
ongoing problems with access to clean water and medical care, amongst
other issues, in Bhopal is at best hypocrisy, at worst, a flagrant
attempt by Dow to try to white-wash its image,” said Audrey Gaughran,
Director of Global Issues at Amnesty International.

“Dow may be trying to run away from the legacy of Bhopal, but it
can’t be allowed to hide behind sponsorship of ‘Run for Water’ events.”

For more than 25 years both the government of India and the
companies involved have failed to address the human rights abuses that
have been the lasting legacy of the Bhopal gas leak.

“Bhopal raises fundamental questions about the accountability of
corporations and the capacity and willingness of governments to address
corporate-related human rights abuses, “said Audrey Gaughran.
 
“For
years the government of India, UCC and Dow have played ’pass the
parcel’ over the issue of responsibility, while the people of Bhopal
have struggled to obtain even basic relief such as clean water.”

Amnesty International has called on Live Earth to reconsider the
sponsorship unless Dow publicly commits to the forthcoming government
clean up process in Bhopal. Dow has not done this.

Amnesty International shares Live Earth’s concerns about the impact
of climate change and the urgent need to take action to protect human
rights, including the right to water. But the organisation fears that
Dow’s sponsorship poses a serious risk to the credibility of the Live
Earth “Run for Water” events.

“Companies must understand that they cannot escape responsibility
for human rights abuses in one area by engaging in positive action
elsewhere.  Human rights abuses cannot be ‘offset’ by corporate good
works,” said Audrey Gaughran.  

“The only way for Dow and UCC to finally put the legacy of Bhopal to
rest is to work with the affected communities and government of India
to fully, and effectively, address the human rights impact of the
disaster.”

Background

Shortly before midnight on 2 December 1984, thousands of pounds of
deadly chemicals leaked from Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal,
central India. Around half a million people were exposed. Between 7,000
and 10,000 people died in the immediate aftermath and a further 15,000
over the next 20 years. More than 25 years later, the site has not been
cleaned up, the leak and its impact have not been properly
investigated, more than 100,000 people continue to suffer from health
problems without the medical care they need, and survivors are still
awaiting fair compensation and full redress for their suffering.
Leaking waste material has polluted groundwater on which thousands of
people depend for drinking water and other domestic uses.

Dow has consistently denied any responsibility for the liabilities
of UCC in Bhopal, but in stark contrast, Dow accepted asbestos-related
liabilities of UCC in the United States that were incurred as early as
1972.

Amnesty International works in partnership with organisations such
as The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal to help support
survivors and activists to demand justice, accountability and an end to
25 years of human rights violations.

Their unstinting campaign for adequate clean-up, access to clean
water and proper medical care, compensation and accountability has seen
survivors and supporter groups, including children and people with
disabilities, repeatedly make the 800-kilometre march from Bhopal to
New Delhi.

More than 100 Bhopal survivors are launching an indefinite protest
in New Delhi today, urging the Indian government to resolve the
liabilities in Bhopal.

Amnesty International's work on the Bhopal disaster is part of its
Demand Dignity campaign, calling for an end to the human rights
violations that drive and deepen poverty. The campaign mobilizes people
all over the world to demand that governments, corporations and others
who have power listen to the voices of those living in poverty and
recognize and protect their rights.

On 26 March 2010 Amnesty International wrote to Live Earth to
express concern about Dow’s involvement in the “Run for Water” events. 
The organization has not received a response to that letter.

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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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