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Indian officials push Dow to pay $1.1bn to Bhopal victims

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by Pesticide Action Network

On Dec. 6, three days after the anniversary of the 1984 Bhopal pesticide plant explosion, India’s Attorney General asked the country’s supreme court to force Dow Chemical to pay $1.1 billion in compensation to victims, reports the Wall Street Journal. The move follows on persistent advocacy and recent trials in India and around the world to hold Dow accountable for the liabilities of Union Carbide, acquired by Dow in 2001. The tragedy is now estimated to have caused 20,000 deaths and some 500,000 injuries.

Dow maintains that the two companies are separate, and that it has no responsibility for the toxic legacy of Bhopal. U.S. State Dept. spokesperson P. J. Crowley has stated that Bhopal is a closed case. In response, the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal has been calling on President Obama to intervene “to publicly recognize the ongoing nature of this disaster, and to demand that Dow Chemical [and] Union Carbide Corporation ... respect the jurisdiction of Indian courts and allow the law to take its course.” Satanath Sarangi, head of Sambhavna Clinic serving Bhopal survivors, declared: "The US government had taken stern action against British Petroleum in the oil spill case in which only 11 people were killed but they never acknowledged the worst industrial disaster caused by an American company."

Since 1998, December 3 has been marked by Pesticide Action Network groups around the world as a “Day of No Pesticide Use,” in honor of the Bhopal victims. This year, PAN Asia Pacific decided to extend the campaign as “No Pesticides Use Week,” culminating on December 10, World Human Rights Day, highlighting “the continuing inability of the concerned governments in bringing the perpetrators of the crime to justice”. PAN groups in the Philippines and eight other countries are participating, united in focusing specifically on the impact on women of highly hazardous pesticides, and promoting sustainable and organic agriculture in place of pesticide use.

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