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Global Day of Action for Justice in Bhopal December 3, 2004
The international Pesticide Action Network (PAN) first designated December 3 as a global “No Pesticides Use Day” in 1999, in commemoration of the horrific disaster at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. Each year on this day PAN centers plan special events or launch new campaigns highlighting the damages pesticides have brought to human health and to the planet.
Today, on the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal tragedy, PAN member organizations join with people around the world in commemorating the ongoing struggle of the Bhopal survivors. Twenty years ago, when a Union Carbide pesticide plant exposed more than 500,000 people to toxic gas that caused 8,000 deaths within hours, it seemed inconceivable that Union Carbide could escape responsibility. Yet, Bhopal survivors still struggle to force Union Carbide and its new owner, Dow Chemical, to take responsibility for the disaster, and to pay for medical costs, compensation, and clean-up of the still leaking site.
The Bhopali struggle for justice is deeply connected to work underway all over the globe against toxic pesticides and unaccountable corporate structures and practices. The enormity of the disaster revealed the unacceptable risks of pesticides as they are manufactured and stored, in addition to their risks during use. And Union Carbide/Dow Chemical’s ability (until now) to escape the true costs of compensation and cleanup clearly demonstrates the ago-chemical corporations’ transnational power and impunity.
Yet the endurance, creativity, dignity and passion of Bhopal survivors and their supporters worldwide are also an inspiring example of global solidarity and commitment to building a movement for justice. The true extent and reach of that movement is evident on the website for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB), http://www.bhopal.net, in the growing list of commemorative actions around the world for the Global Day of Action for Justice in Bhopal, organized by the ICJB. Examples of activities at PAN centers include:
PAN Asia Pacific The Asia/Pacific center is supporting partner groups’ plans for commemorations of Bhopal. In India, the Kerala based Thanal Conservation Action and Information Network has sent a team of 10 people to Bhopal, and is also holding an exhibition on the impacts of the pesticide endosulfan, which is highly acutely toxic and a suspected endocrine disruptor. In Kasargod communities, 20 years of aerial spraying of endosulfan for cashew nut production has been linked to massive health problems, including horrendous birth defects, cancers and death. In Bangladesh and Sri Lanka farmers and women’s groups will hold candle light vigils, naming those who died in Bhopal, and those who are still dying because of pesticides. PAN Philippines will hold a press conference, a public forum, distribute fliers and place streamers on major roads calling for Dow Chemical to face a criminal trial in India. In China, the Pesticide Eco-Alternatives Center Yunnan Thoughtful Action is organizing students in Kunming universities to visit nearby villages where pesticides are heavily used and farmers often suffer pesticide poisoning.
PAN UK On December 3rd PAN UK will hold its Rachel Carson Memorial Lecture, “Force Fed: How our newly industrialized food system leads to environmental and human degradation” by Felicity Lawrence, consumer affairs reporter correspondent for the “Guardian.” Lawrence is author of “Not on the Label” which exposes how industrialized ways of producing food has ravaged European farmland, increase incidence of cancer and obesity, delivered adulterated foods and concentrated corporate power.
PAN North America PANNA is screening the Bhopal Express, a feature film exploring the human cost of the Bhopal disaster, at the Berkeley Ecology Center, co-sponsored by the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. (Call PANNA for details at 415 981 1771). The December 2004 issue of Global Pesticide Campaigner features multiple articles related to the Bhopal 20th Anniversary, including an editorial by Bhopal survivor and leader Rashida Bee, and is available on the PANNA web site at http://www.panna.org.
PAN Latin America In Peru, Red de Acción en Alternativas al Uso de Agroquímicos (RAAA) has co-organized a Congressional Hearing and press event to highlight the responsibility of the agrochemical company Bayer for the poisoning deaths of 24 children in the remote Andean village of Tauccamarca in October 1999. The children were stricken after eating a school breakfast contaminated with the organophosphate pesticide methyl parathion, which Bayer markets in Peru in the form of a white powder with no strong chemical odor, in small plastic bags, labeled in Spanish and displaying a picture of vegetables (the majority of people in the Andean region speak Quechua and are not literate). The parents of the children sued Bayer in 2001, and Peruvian congressional committee found evidence of criminal responsibility on the part of Bayer in 2002. The case is still in the courts. The PAN Latin America Regional Center in Chile created a commemorative poster focusing on pesticide health hazards, and PAN El Salvador is observing the day with a press conference and fair featuring organic products.
PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don’t always get coverage by the mainstream media. It’s produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.
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