Navin in the News
Navin's News: Dow Chemical
Anti-Dow campaigners continue Olympic protest
It is considered one of the world’s worst industrial catastrophes of all time. The 1984 Bhopal disaster killed thousands when chemical gases leaked out of a pesticide plant in India.
Due to contaminated water, the disaster continues to affect the health of hundreds off villagers in surrounding areas. In 2001 the Bhopal plant was sold to American multinational Dow Chemicals whose Olympic sponsorship is causing quite the stir.
Navin Shah, a protester and member of the London Assembly, said: “Lord Coe (Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee) would make you believe, the Mayor of London would make you believe, even the prime minister would make you believe that there is no problem with the sponsorship with Dow. That is completely bogus. It is offensive, they really need to apologise for the kind of offence that they have caused to the poor victims of Bhopal but none of that is happening.”
Anti-Dow campaigners protested in central London ahead of a meeting of the International Olympic Committee’s inspection team. Protesters say the leak and its fallout have killed some 25,000 people and are calling for the company’s sponsorship of a fabric wrap around the Olympic Stadium to be cancelled.
London 2012 Olympics: Dow Chemical puts blame for ongoing crisis in Bhopal at Indian government's door
By Jacquelin Magnay
George Hamilton, Dow’s vice president of Olympic operations said the Indian government should bear the brunt of questioning about the contamination of Bhopal, rather than his company, which has come under sustained heat for a £7 million sponsorship of the London Olympic Games stadium wrap and the Olympic Movement in a $100 million deal.
As the first of the wrap’s 336 triangular panels is due to be installed around the Olympic stadium within weeks, the issue was once again debated in the London Assembly on Wednesday.
A motion to ban Dow Chemical officials from London House, to scrap the sponsorship and demand an apology from Locog to the victims of Bhopal for the offence caused by Dow’s sponsorship was rejected 10-11.
Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow, Navin Shah, said Dow failed to meet Locog’s ethic and sustainability code and noted: “I’m disappointed the Liberal Democrats and Conservative Assembly Members voted against the motion, and equally saddened that Lord Coe has decided to continue with the deal with Dow.
"This is damaging to the credibility of the Games and the reputation of London.”
Dow Chemical purchased the parent company of Union Carbide, 17 years after it was responsibile for up to 25,000 deaths from a gas leak in 1984.
But in a rare analysis of the Bhopal issue, Hamilton told Telegraph Sportthe government of India had the financial liability in relationship to the Bhopal disaster and that if there was any corporate liability, it rested with Eveready.
Hamilton said the government responsibility had been confirmed by the Supreme court back in 1991 and it was then reinforced after the state government struck a deal back in 1998 with the then landowners Eveready.
Eveready (at the time called Macleod Russel India Limited) had purchased all of Union Carbide Indian assets.
Essentially, Hamilton says, when Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide, it didn’t own any of the Indian assets. They were owned by Eveready, which still operates in India.
Hamilton questioned why the Indian government was now seeking to attach Dow Chemical to a financial remediation plan when it was the government who had had the responsibility to clean up the site for more than a decade.
Hamilton said: ”If there is any questioning it has to be to the Indian government and why have they sat on their hands for 13 years?
”They [the government] took back the land from Macleod Russel India specifically to remediate the land and it has done nothing.
”Now the government is seeking to attach Dow to financial liabilities and responsibilities, when to date every court has said you can’t attach liability to a company that had no association, and this is the same government that has an obligation for additional claims.”
Hamilton argued that if people had a real interest in helping the people of Bhopal they were going about it the wrong way.
”It is very curious that the facts are clear and publicly available but repeated attempts by activists and some politicians are misguided, misinformed and misdirected,” he said.
”The company that purchased Union Carbide was now under Eveready. No one has interviewed Eveready, no one has targeted that company, Dow is not connected with it, but others are clearly connected with it, including the Indian government.”
However protest groups maintain that Dow Chemical, as the owner of the Union Carbide India’s parent company was ultimately responsible.
There are court cases debating the legal position including a long running case in the Southern District of New York.
Eveready said on its website that ”Eveready is neither responsible for the pollution as reported, nor is it liable for the clean up of the toxic material."
It says the responsibility lies with Dow Chemical through its ownership of Union Carbide USA and while it purchased the majority shares of Union Carbide India in 1994 at an auction sale, it has no relationship with the gas leak.
”The present business of the company is manufacture and marketing of fast moving consumer goods and has no connection with the pesticides business of Union Carbide,” the company says. It further adds that the Bhopal plant was closed permanently and all licenses cancelled by the government.
Eveready also claims that the state government took possession of the Bhopal plant ”unconditionally” in 1998.
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