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Navin's News for March 2012

Anti-Dow campaigners continue Olympic protest

 

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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.

Eddie Izzard campaigns at Harrow on the Hill station

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By Hannah Bewley

COMEDIAN and high profile Labour supporter Eddie Izzardjoined volunteers and Navin Shah in Harrow recently tocampaign. The well-known funny man spoke in support of Ken Livingstone’s campaign to be elected as Mayor of London in May.

Mr Izzard is visiting a number of places across London to raise awareness about Mr Livingstone’s transport pledges, such as cutting fares and pegging subsequent rises with inflation. The comedian spoke to people on the streets and was given a tour of the bus and train station at Harrow on the Hill by Labour Assembly candidate Navin Shah

Harrow-on-the-Hill petition submitted to the Mayor

I submitted a petition to Mayor of London, Boris Johnson regarding the lack of accessibility at Harrow-on-the-Hill station at last week's Plenary.

The petition states that residents and visitors to Harrow want the Mayor of London to restore funding, previously agreed with the former Mayor and TfL, to make Harrow-on-the-Hill fully accessible and integrated with Harrow Bus Station.

Over 500 residents signed the petition.

I have lobbied the Mayor on this issue continually over the last four years, since he cut £25 million of investment for regeneration and step-free access to Harrow-on-the-Hill Station. 

One in ten Londoners are excluded from large parts of the transport network because of mobility issues and in Harrow only 4 tube and rail stations out of 14 have step-free access. This is not good enough.

Local Councillor and lead petitioner, Sue Anderson joined me at City Hall to submit the petition. She said: “Step-free access is well overdue at this major station, I have been really impressed by the amount of support the petition has received from people across the borough and beyond.”

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London 2012: Dow Chemical defends Olympic Stadium sponsorship deal

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By Owen Gibson

The senior executive at Dow Chemical responsible for its Olympic sponsorship has insisted there is no chance of it dropping the controversial wrap that will surround the stadium at the London Games.

Campaigners have called on London 2012 organisers to end their relationship with Dow over claimed links to the 1984 Bhopal disaster, which killed more than 15,000 people. But George Hamilton, Dow's vice-president of Olympic operations, described the company's critics as "irresponsible". Hamilton said: "This issue is not our issue. We're not going to be bullied by activists or politicians who want to get involved in this, whatever their driver may be. We're not going to allow that to make us waver from our commitment to the Olympic movement."

Dow signed a $100m (£63m) 10-year deal with the International Olympic Committee in 2010 and last summer agreed to sponsor the £7m wrap that will surround the stadium. The issue has led to calls from politicians, including Tessa Jowell, the shadow Olympics minister and London 2012 board member, and Ken Livingstone, Labour's London mayoral candidate, to scrap the deal. But the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the IOC have repeatedly backed Dow's stance.

London 2012's chairman, Lord Coe, this week defended the association in the face of hostile questioning from the London Assembly member Navin Shah, who said the issue was "damaging the credibility of the standing of London and the Games".

Hamilton said: "The people attacking Dow have woefully underestimated our character and who we are. They have underestimated our character, the contribution we've made to responsible care and use of chemicals, and they've underestimated our stamina. We've been here for 112 years and we're planning to go for the next 100."

Hamilton said that it had bought the assets of Union Carbide, the company that owned the Bhopal plant at the time of the gas leak, seven years after the Indian subsidiary had been divested to a third company, McLeod Russel India Ltd. He said: "We didn't buy the Indian assets or liabilities because they had sold them to McLeod Russel. So now to get Dow to take some action that says we are responsible. Legally? No. Ethically, morally? No."

The issue has escalated to the point where Indian government officials are considering boycotting the opening and closing ceremonies. The IOC on Thursday responded to a letter from the Indian sports ministry asking it to reconsider by restating its position that Dow neither owned nor operated the plant at the time of the disaster.

Barry Gardiner, the Labour MP who is leading a group calling for the deal to be re-examined, said that the issue of Dow's liability over Bhopal was only one among several that made it unfit to be associated with the Olympics. "This is not simply about one thing in a particular point in time. This company is not fit to be associated with the most sustainable Olympic Games ever."

Following a recent Westminster Hall debate, Gardiner said that he had written again to Coe outlining a series of issues with Dow and with the procurement process. He said he had yet to receive a reply.

Hamilton said Dow had decided to get involved with the Olympics to reach into new markets, including Russia and Brazil where the next two Games will take place, accelerate its "transformation strategy" of moving from being seen as the equivalent of a utilities company to a "solutions provider" and as a staff motivation tool.

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London 2012 Olympics: Dow Chemical puts blame for ongoing crisis in Bhopal at Indian government's door

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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.

Navin celebrates Olympics with Harrow Asian Deaf Club

Harrow Asian Deaf Club (HADC) celebrated their first ever London Olympic 2012 Celebration by hosting the event at Bentley Day Centre this weekend to support the London Olympics 2012 in Harrow.

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The venue was decorated with British Flags and balloon in British colours of red, blue and white to celebrate the Olympics and encourage everybody to be proud of being British. HADC had a fantastic turn out, with 200 people joining the celebration including The Mayor and Mayoress of Harrow. The event kicked off with delicious and healthy refreshment and carried the sporty theme.

The enthusiasm for the London Olympics was most remarkable amongst the members and the progress made by the Harrow Asian Deaf Club in a such a short time too is most impressive. I thoroughly enjoyed the quiz and focus on the celebration of London Olympic. For the future Olympic and Paralympic games I'd like to see International Olympic Committee make greater level of consideration for deaf participants and people so that they don't feel sidelined. I look forward to working with the Club.

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 Navin Shah AM