Corporate pranksters show a lot of bottle in Bhopal fight
Two US filmmakers brought bottles of contaminated water to London trying to shame a company into cleaning up an industrial disaster site in India.
The Yes Men – political pranksters Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno – led activists to the UK headquarters of the Dow Chemical Company clutching bottles of toxic B’eau-Pal water to raise the plight of Bhopal people.
Mr Bonanno said: “Today we are releasing a new product – unpotable water – to publicise the fact that the disaster in Bhopal is continuing.”
Dow has come under fire from activists because in 2001 it took over Union Carbide, which owned and ran the pesticide plant in the central Indian city where the world’s worst industrial accident took place.
In December 1984 a storage tank leaked toxic gas methyl isocyanate into the air. More than 500,000 people were exposed to the deadly fumes.
Estimates of the death toll vary but it is generally accepted between 8,000 and 10,000 died within the first three days and some 25,000 since.
Thousands more suffered health problems from the incident and subsequent pollution at the site.
As the 25th anniversary of the disaster approaches, activists are pressuring Dow to clean up the area’s contaminated water supply.
“The company has claimed that it is not responsible and that Union Carbide had settled its responsibility before Dow became the owner, but water in the city is still contaminated,” said Mr Bonnano.
“In some communities a majority of the children are being born with congenital deformities.”
The bottle labels mimic Dow’s red diamond logo with a drawing of the factory above the name and below that it was bottled in Bhopal and is “not suitable for human consumption”.
The Yes Men, whose new film “The Yes Men Fix the World” opens in UK cinemas next month (August 11), took the bottles to Dow offices in Staines last Monday (July 13).
They were accompanied by Sathyu Sarangi – a leading campaigner in the Bhopali survivors’ movement.
He said: “The international pressure against Dow Chemical’s refusal to clean up the toxic waste in Bhopal has grown remarkably.”
Dow spokesman Scot Wheeler said the firm had ‘deep sympathy’ for Bhopal victims but protests were ‘wholly misdirected’ and ‘inappropriate’.
In a statement the company said: “Union Carbide Corporation and Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) settled their liability for the gas release tragedy with the government of India in 1989 and paid $470m (£285 million) to the government of India.”
It pointed out Union Carbide sold its interest in UCIL in 1994 before Dow bought shares in the company in 2001 and had “no assets in India.”
Dow added: “Dow never owned or operated the UCIL plant site.”
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