The Bhopal Legacy
Wedekind, Jennifer, Multinational Monitor
THE TOLL OF DEATH AND DISEASE from the Bhopal, India chemical disaster continues to mount. The 1984 leak of dangerous gases from a Union Carbide chemical plant has now killed more than 22,000 people, according to Amnesty International, with hundreds of thousands still sick.
Dow Chemical, which purchased Union Carbide in 2001, wants to put the disaster behind it. But Amnesty International says the company remains liable for damages that it is not disclosing to its shareholders.
Following the disaster, Union Carbide refused to pay interim relief to victims and refused to appear in Indian courts to face charges of culpable homicide. In 1989, Union Carbide paid the Indian government $470 million in a legal settlement, but the agreement did not end ongoing criminal prosecution, nor offer an environmental remedy for the contaminated site. Today the Bhopal District Court and the Supreme Court of India still consider Union Carbide and former CEO Warren Anderson to be "absconders" from justice.
In April 2007, Amnesty International called on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate Dow for not disclosing information to shareholders regarding the company's culpability in the Bhopal disaster, including tens of millions of dollars in cleanup costs.
"Despite the settlement of prior civil litigation, the company remains stymied in India as a result of the ongoing impact of the Bhopal disaster," states Amnesty's letter to the SEC. …