Daily News Archive

Dow Faces Nationwide Student Protests Over Bhopal Disaster
(Beyond Pesticides, December 4, 2003)
Students from 26 colleges, universities and high schools organized nationwide protests yesterday against Dow Chemical in response to a call by the survivors of the 1984 Bhopal disaster to observe December 3 - the 19th anniversary of the disaster - as Global Day of Action Against Corporate Crime.

Dow Chemical, which was key manufacturer of chemical warfare agents Napalm and Agent Orange, faces such widespread protests for the first time since the Vietnam War due to its February 2001 acquisition of Union Carbide -- the perpetrator of the Bhopal disaster. The protests, organized by Students for Bhopal, Association for India's Development (AID) chapters, and the Environmental Justice Program of the Sierra Student Coalition (SSC), call on Dow to accept its moral and legal responsibility for the world's worst industrial disaster.

On December 3rd, 1984, a toxic cloud of gas from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, enveloped the surrounding city, leaving thousands dead. More than 20,000 have died to date and more than 120,000 people still suffer from severe health problems as a result of their exposure. Chemicals and heavy metals that Union Carbide abandoned at the site-including mercury, trichloroethene, chloroform, and lead-have contaminated the water supply for 20,000 Bhopal residents. Despite acquiring Union Carbide, Dow Chemical has refused to address Carbide's pending liabilities in Bhopal, that include medical and economic rehabilitation of victims, clean up of toxic wastes and contaminated groundwater, and provision of safe drinking water. Union Carbide is a proclaimed fugitive from justice for its failure to appear in Indian courts to face trial for manslaughter.

As during the Vietnam War, students across the country will protest against college affiliations with Dow-Carbide, including recruitment, investment, and financial contributions. Students will also protest outside of several Dow-Carbide offices and facilities, including those in Dallas, Texas and Smithfield, Rhode Island. Contaminated water from Bhopal will be delivered in "return-to-sender" actions to the homes of eleven of Dow-Carbide's fourteen Board members, including the CEO, William Stavropoulos.

"Clearly, the water contamination in Bhopal is an issue that needs to be brought 'home' to Dow-Carbide," declared Jaimini Parekh, an SSC member who organized a "return-to-sender" action against Board member Jackie Barton. "Dow-Carbide seems content to condemn the survivors of Bhopal to wallow in the contamination that it left behind. The fact that Dow-Carbide will not act to stop the ongoing contamination of tens of thousands-for which it is responsible-is inhumane, unjust, and immoral."

"Students are outraged," said Ryan Bodanyi, an organizer with Students for Bhopal. "They don't want their colleges and universities accepting money from a corporation that maintains its profit margins by poisoning people and blithely standing aside as they die. Dow-Carbide's callous disregard for the value of human life hasn't changed much since the Vietnam War, and students aren't going to be any more forgiving now than they were then. Dow-Carbide should expect these protests to continue and intensify."

"We're not going to allow Dow-Carbide to get away with murder," declared Nishant Jain, one of the leaders of AID's Austin chapter. "Enron's crimes may have cost people their retirement portfolios, but Dow-Carbide's crimes in Bhopal have cost tens of thousands of people their health and their lives. People are fed up with corporate violations of our labor, environmental, and human rights, which is why so many people have united to take action on the anniversary of Bhopal, a particularly heinous corporate crime."

People from more than a dozen countries are expected to participate in the Global Day of Action in solidarity against the criminal abuse of corporate power. At least 12 towns and cities in India, including Bhopal, have expressed their intent to take action around the Bhopal anniversary; trade unions and community organizations in Britain, Germany, Sri Lanka, Lebanon, the United States, and Canada have also planned events.

Ryan Bodanyi, Students for Bhopal (401) 829-6192
Nishant Jain, Association for India's Development (512) 422-7169
Jaimini Parekh, Sierra Student Coalition (626) 355-9612

Students participating from:
Brown University; CalTech; University of California (Berkeley); University of Chicago; University of Colorado (Boulder); Flintridge Preparatory School (Sierra Madre, CA); Georgia State; Georgia Tech; Highland Park High School (Dallas, TX); University of Illinois (Urbana-Champlain); Johns Hopkins University; Lake Forest College; Loyola University; University of Maryland (College Park); University of Michigan; University of Minnesota; MIT; Penn State (University Park); Portland State University; Princeton; Occidental College; Reed College; Rhode Island School of Design; Sewanee College; University of Texas (Austin); Wheaton College

Op-ed piece by Gary Cohen in honor of the 19th anniversary of the Bhopal chemical disaster. For more information see Bhopal website.

Related stories by Beyond Pesticides: Fasting Bhopal Survivors Bring Demands for Justice to Dow Shareholders. Two Women Survivors of Bhopal disaster On Hunger Strike/Photo Stories. The Culture of Make Believe.