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Navin's News: Bhopal Disaster

London Assembly Member Navin Shah joins Anti-Dow Demonstrators in Trafalgar Square

At midday today I joined the campaign group Drop Dow Now in a ‘die-in’ in Trafalgar Square. The protestors lay under shrouds at the Olympic Clock as part of an international day of action against Dow Chemical’s Olympic sponsorship. There are also actions in India, the US and Canada today: in Bhopal, India over 100 survivors of the Bhopal gas disaster staged a similar ‘die-in’ demonstration.

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Drop Dow Now is calling for Dow’s sponsorship of the London Games to be dropped due to Dow’s connections to the Bhopal gas disaster in 1984. The disaster killed over 20,000 and caused injury and illness to thousands more. Dow bought Union Carbide, the company which owned the site in Bhopal when the gas leak occurred, in 2001. The site of the disaster has still not been cleaned up, which has caused contamination of the water supply for thousands of Bhopalis. Hundreds of children continue to be born every year with birth defects as a result.

Whilst I’m fully supportive of the London Olympics, I am deeply disappointed with the attitude of LOCOG and the IOC for failing to do anything about this issue. As campaigners we are committed to continuing this movement to get rid of toxic organisations such as Dow from what are supposed to be sustainable and ethical worldwide Games. We will continue to fight for justice for the victims in Bhopal.

Meredith Alexander, who resigned from the Commission for a Sustainable London in January over Dow’s sponsorship of the Olympics, commented, “Although there is just one month to go before the Games begin, the victims of Dow's disaster in Bhopal are still waiting for LOCOG to acknowledge that the London Olympics are adding to their suffering.

“Dow's high profile involvement in the Games is a slap in the face to the people who have been fighting for years to get justice. Even if it is not possible to remove the Dow wrap, an official apology from the London Games organisers would mean the world to the people who lost loved ones or suffer life-long illness because of the gas leak. Dow's sponsorship is a toxic stain on these Games. Athletes, Londoners and spectators the world over would be better able to enjoy the Olympics if the problem is addressed before they begin."

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Colin Toogood from the Bhopal Medical Appeal said, “Everybody knows that Dow did not own the Bhopal factory at the time of the disaster. But this does not stop them from being responsible now. There is a criminal case still open against Union Carbide (UCC) for ‘culpable homicide’, and Dow refuses to present UCC in court. Dow is harbouring a fugitive from the law and preventing justice being done in Bhopal. Worse than that, while the legal process is stalled, people in Bhopal continue to be poisoned by toxic chemicals. Dow Chemical has both the power and the responsibility to stop this from happening.”

Amy Jonson from Drop Dow Now said, “Dow has been trying to whitewash its toxic reputation with this Olympic sponsorship. They are trying to ignore their responsibilities to the people of Bhopal, where the environmental and humanitarian disaster is ongoing. We will not let this happen.”

By Navin Shah AM

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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“SAY NO TO DOW” - Campaign Seeking Justice For Bhopal’s Victims

It was a moving experience to be in Bhopal on 2 December and pay tribute, outside the disused 'Union Carbide' Factory, to the victims of Bhopal disaster in 1984. Standing alongside hundreds of people from Bhopal many of whom had suffered one way or the other from the calamitous events 27 years ago on this very day and still continue to suffer gave me just a tiny ounce of idea of the scale and the impact on the masses of people and the environment.

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I stood outside the compound wall of the factory stunned with mixed emotions of sadness, shame and anger. Sadness for the fact that up to 25,000 people were killed from the disaster and approximately 100,000 still suffer from ailments as a result of the disaster. Shame that the tragedy occurred at the factory owned then by Union Carbide which was bought by Dow chemicals in 2001 and anger because Union Carbide/Dow Chemicals to date are refusing to fully admit their liabilities and have treated victims like dirt. Furthermore ashamed also that the ‘London Olympics Organising Committee for Olympic and Paralympics Games’ (LOCOG) chaired by Lord Coe has decided to award a ‘Wrap’ sponsorship contract for the Olympic Stadium to Dow Chemicals - the very company at the centre of ongoing and inhumane conduct leading to ongoing injustice to the victims of Bhopal.

A few weeks ago I joined a campaign in London launched by Barry Gardiner MP, for the immediate withdrawal of the Dow Chemical’s sponsorship by LOCOG followed by launching a petition in the Sattavis Gam Centre in Brent opposing Dow Chemical’s sponsorship. I’m grateful to the Brent Indian Association for leading the support as local organisation and other organisations for their presence at the launch of the petition. The campaign is a cross-party (non-political) initiative with a joint letter to Lord Coe signed by individuals and organisations.

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I urge you to sign our petition or become joint signatory as an organization. Please contact me at navin.shah@london.gov.uk.  

During my private visit to Bhopal on the 27th anniversary of the disaster, I launched a local petition together with a joint letter (for Bhopal/Indian organizations) thus extending the campaign to the very heart of the cause and adding the voice of the very victims and people of Bhopal, India. The visit proved to be an eye opener and gave me the first hand account of the tragedy as well as impressive work being done by the local organisations like Sambhavna Trust and Chingari Trust.

Sambhavna Trust, with donations/contributions from Greenpeace (Nederland) etc. was opened in 2005 and Chingari Trust has operated since 2006. My visit to these two centres demonstrated the great medical and educational support and awareness they provide on a day to day basis to the victims and families.

The highlight of my visit was also participating in the annual procession (demonstration against Dow Chemicals) attended by hundreds of victims/sufferers including second / third generation children with deformities and individuals and organizations. The procession lasted over two hours, passing through the busy areas of Bhopal’s town centre and ended outside the former disused Union Carbide factory reminding people of the tragedy and the continuing injustice dished out by Dow Chemicals. The town during the procession was echoing with the shouts and slogans like: ‘27 years are enough’; ‘Enough is enough’; ‘We’ll fight – We’ll win’ and ‘Give voice to victims’.

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LOCOG’s decision to award sponsorship to Dow Chemicals is inconsistent with their code of sustainability and ethical standards. The victims deserve justice and fairness, it is also important to protect London’s reputation and Olympic legacy. For this I urge Lord Coe to withdraw Dow Chemical’s sponsorship.

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5th December 2011

Launch of Campaign against LOCOG at the Olympic Stadium

JOIN THE CAMPAIGN NOW AND SIGN THE PETITION

I was joined by Labour Friends of India and a cross-party coalition of MPs at the Olympic Site yesterday to urge the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) to review its decision to award Dow Chemical Company the contract to build the decorative wrapping on the Olympic Stadium. I feel that Dow's appalling human rights record with regards to the victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster puts the Olympic legacy at risk.

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Background

Dow owns Union Carbide Corporation, which was responsible for the 1984 gas leak in Bhopal, India. Half a million people were exposed to the gas and 25,000 people have died as a result of their exposure. More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments caused by the accident and the subsequent pollution at the plant site.

Health and human rights groups in Bhopal continue to report high rates of congenital deformities and cancers among families who are forced to use contaminated groundwater sources. More than 10 independent scientific studies show dangerous levels of chemicals such as carbon tetrachloride in water supplies.

Dow bought UCC in 2001. It denies responsibility for UCC's Bhopal liabilities and claims the $470m paid by UCC in 1991 to disaster was final. This settlement gave victims an average payout of only $630, and many received nothing.

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JOIN THE CAMPAIGN NOW AND SIGN THE PETITION

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15th November 2011