Friday, December 4, 2009

Dow Chemicals--commited to the environment

It's the 25 year anniversary of Bhopal, and just checking in on the state of things--it's not very good. Water is contaminated, lingering health problems are beginning to affect a third generation--

Research by the Indian Council for Medical Research shows that 25,000 people have died from the consequences of exposure since 1984. About 100,000 people are chronically sick, and more than 30,000 people live in water-contaminated areas around the factory, according to government figures, the Times Online reports.

India's government has previously acknowledged that about half a million people were affected by the incident, considered the world's worst industrial accident. (UPI)

--so what does Dow, who now owns Union Carbide, have to say about Bhopal--

A Legacy Acknowledged

imageIn response to growing public outrage over its handling of the Bhopal disaster's legacy, Dow issued a statement on December 3, 2002 explaining why it is unable to more actively address the problem. The statement went to thousands of journalists and others. (For selected responses, click here.)

"We are being portrayed as a heartless giant which doesn't care about the 20,000 lives lost due to Bhopal over the years," said Dow President and CEO Michael D. Parker. "But this just isn't true. Many individuals within Dow feel tremendous sorrow about the Bhopal disaster, and many individuals within Dow would like the corporation to admit its responsibility, so that the public can then decide on the best course of action, as is appropriate in any democracy.

"Unfortunately, we have responsibilities to our shareholders and our industry colleagues that make action on Bhopal impossible. And being clear about this has been a very big step."

On December 3, 1984, Union Carbide--now part of Dow--accidentally killed 5,000 residents of Bhopal, India, when its pesticide plant sprung a leak. It abandoned the plant without cleaning it up, and since then, an estimated 15,000 more people have died from complications, most resulting from chemicals released into the groundwater.

Although legal investigations have consistently pinpointed Union Carbide as culprit, both Union Carbide and Dow have had to publicly deny these findings. After the accident, Union Carbide compensated victims' families between US$300 and US$500 per victim.

"We understand the anger and hurt," said Dow Spokesperson Bob Questra. "But Dow does not and cannot acknowledge responsibility. If we did, not only would we be required to expend many billions of dollars on cleanup and compensation--much worse, the public could then point to Dow as a precedent in other big cases. 'They took responsibility; why can't you?' Amoco, BP, Shell, and Exxon all have ongoing problems that would just get much worse. We are unable to set this precedent for ourselves and the industry, much as we would like to see the issue resolved in a humane and satisfying way."

Shareholders reacted to the Dow statement with enthusiasm. "I'm happy that Dow is being clear about its aims," said Panaline Boneril, who owns 10,000 shares, "because Bhopal is a recurrent problem that's clogging our value chain and ultimately keeping the share price from expressing its full potential. Although a real solution is not immediately possible because of Dow's commitments to the larger industry issues, there is new hope in management's exceptional new clarity on the matter."

"It's a slow process," said Questra. "We must learn bit by bit to meet this challenge head-on. For now, this means acknowledging that much as it pains us, our prime responsibilities are to the people who own Dow shares, and to the industry as a whole. We simply cannot do anything at this moment for the people of Bhopal."

But don't be too critical--they ARE sponsoring the

Dow Live Earth Run for Water

The Dow Live Earth Run for Water is the largest solutions-based initiative aimed at solving the global water crisis in history. Taking place on April 18, 2010, the event will consist of a series of 6 km runs/walks (the average distance many women and children walk every day to secure water) occurring over the course of 24 hours. The events will feature live musical performances and water education activities in an effort to ignite a massive global movement to put an end to this epidemic. (More)

Phew, I'm relieved.......nothing to worry about long as there are live musical performances, everything's all right....

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