Pallone Holds Capitol Hill Briefing on Bhopal with Survivors and Goldman Environmental Prize Winners Rashida Bee & Champa Devi Shakla
Washington, DC--- Nearly 20 years after the Union Carbide Corporation plant in Bhopal leaked 40 tons of lethal gas killing 4,000 people and injuring more than 20,000, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. yesterday held a briefing on Capitol Hill to observe the horror of the disaster with Goldman Environmental Prize winners and Bhopal survivors Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla. Pallone also announced plans to introduce legislation in remembrance of the Bhopal disaster 20 years ago.
Bee and Shukla, survivors of the Bhopal disaster and leading activists today in Bhopal, joined Pallone in Washington, DC after being awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize this week. In a united front, Bee, Shukla and Pallone once again called upon Dow Chemical, the American corporation that now owns Union Carbide, to step forward and take full responsibility for the actions of Union Carbide.
"We are very fortunate to have Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla with us today," Pallone said at the opening of yesterday's briefing. "As they witnessed the horror of the Bhopal disaster in 1984 and have dedicated their lives to an international campaign to seek justice for people struggling each day as a result of the gas leak, I join them in their efforts to make sure the site is completely cleaned-up and the survivors' needs are fully addressed by Dow Chemical."
Pallone joined the women in supporting a four-fold effort to: 1) extradite Union Carbide Corporation officials and its former Chairman CEO Warren Anderson on criminal charges to face trial in Bhopal; 2) provide long-term health care and monitoring for survivors and their children as well as the release of information on the health impact of the gases that were leaked; 3) demand clean up of the former Union Carbide site and the surrounding area; and 4) obtain adequate economic and social support to survivors who can no longer pursue their trade because of illness or to families widowed by the disaster.
"Its outrageous that this year marks the 20th Anniversary of this tragic event and that the CEOs of Union Carbide and its successor Dow Chemical still remain absconders of justice" Pallone said. "It is unacceptable to allow an American company not only the opportunity to exploit international borders and legal jurisdictions but also the ability to evade civil and criminal liability for environmental pollution and abuses committed overseas."
Pallone praised a ruling last month from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit against a Union Carbide motion to dismiss a case before the court holding Dow Chemical responsible for the environmental disaster. The Appeals Court's decision allows the claim to continue against Dow Chemical that came from victims and their families after a U.S. District Judge in New York dismissed the claims against the company last year. After the decision in New York last year, Pallone and eight of his House colleagues sent a 23-page brief to the appeals court urging the court to hold Dow Chemical responsible and not dismiss the case against it.
On December 2, 1984 a Union Carbide plant leaked 40 tons of lethal gas in Bhopal, India, killing 4,000 people within hours and injuring more than 20,000. Since then, the death count has risen to well over 14,000 as a result of exposure to the gas. According to victims rights groups, over 150,000 are suffering from the after effects, such as reproductive complications, loss of ability to perform physical labor, rare cancers and severe respiratory problems. Residents of Bhopal are still faced with polluted groundwater, toxic waste and contaminated soil and their concerns have yet to be addressed.
Dow Chemical acquired Union Carbide Corporation in February 2001 and has yet to accept responsibility or to address the liabilities it inherited from the1984 Bhopal disaster. Over the last 20 years, victims have filed numerous lawsuits against the company in an attempt to address health concerns and the tremendous environmental injustices that resulted from the disaster, but to date their claims have remained unanswered.