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December 3, 2021Statement of Solidarity with Environmental Justice communities in Bhopal on the 37th Anniversary of the Agrochemical Gas Disaster

December 3, 2021

Statement of Solidarity with Environmental Justice communities in Bhopal on

the 37th Anniversary of the Agrochemical Gas Disaster

 

On this 37th anniversary of the world’s worst industrial disaster, we, the undersigned individuals and organizations from across the United States, express our solidarity with the people of Bhopal who, in 1984, were exposed when 27 tons of the highly toxic pesticide intermediary chemical, methyl isocyanate (MIC), leaked due to a preventable incident at the Union Carbide pesticide plant. We stand united to end the harm from toxic chemicals throughout their lifecycle, from feedstock extraction to disposal and persistent contamination in humans and the environment.   

 

Today, more than a half-million people who worked, lived, played and prayed near the agrochemical manufacturing site in Bhopal have suffered injuries, illnesses, disability or death as a result of the hazardous design and cost-cutting decisions of the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC). Now owned by Dow Chemical, the company continues to prioritize profits over human lives by denying liability, inadequately compensating victims and refusing to clean up the site which remains a source of ongoing contamination for the surrounding community. After nearly four decades, the company still has not been brought to justice. We stand in solidarity with the Bhopal survivors and their children who continue to experience chronic health effects, ongoing ground and water contamination, disability, and lost livelihoods as a result of this disaster, as well as ongoing victimization from lack of government and corporate accountability. The event was entirely preventable, and the ongoing hazards are unacceptable. 

 

In the United States as in Bhopal, chemical facilities that manufacture, process and store highly hazardous chemicals are disproportionately located in environmental justice (EJ) communities -  communities of color, ​​Tribes and Native/Indigenous communities, and low-income communities. Workers in these facilities and the communities that surround them are inadequately protected by governmental regulations and corporate interest. Fenceline communities disproportionately bear the burden of cumulative health effects from persistent and concentrated air, ground and water contamination as well as chemical disasters that occur far too frequently. For instance:

 

Fenceline communities in the United States also disproportionately experience low access to healthy foods, and as in Bhopal, these same fenceline communities have experienced higher rates of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19. This burden is felt not only in EJ communities where chemicals are manufactured, but in communities and workplaces throughout the chemical’s lifecycle.  

 

  • In Appalachia, high rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease are attributed to water and air pollution from mountaintop removal mining of coal, a feedstock for the chemical industry. 
  • In Mossville, Louisiana, a historic, Black community founded in 1790 by formerly enslaved people which is now surrounded by over a dozen plastics and petrochemical manufacturing and refining facilities, blood-levels of dioxin were found to be three times that of the general population.
  • In 2019, a train derailed that was delivering chlorine to the Kuehne Chemical Complex, a high-risk chemical facility in Kearny, New Jersey. 
  • Inadequate protections at a fertilizer storage facility in West, Texas caused a deadly explosion that killed 15 people including firefighters, destroyed an entire neighborhood, including schools and a nursing home, and injured hundreds
  • Farmworkers in the U.S. are routinely occupationally exposed to toxic agricultural pesticides that can result in long-term chronic health problems to themselves and that can have an effect on pregnant women and the fetus that can result in harm to the health of their children, similar to the harm done to the children of Bhopal disaster survivors.
  • The Arctic is a hemispheric sink for persistent organic pollutants (POPs), the class of chemicals that are also contaminating the water and soil in Bhopal. They contaminate the environment and bodies of Arctic communities and Indigenous peoples without consent, and they bioaccumulate in subsistence foods.  

 

This burden is unjust and inhumane, and it is entirely unacceptable to shift the burden from one community or country to another.

 

In solidarity with the Bhopal survivors and their children, we affirm that every person has a right to food, water, air and land free of toxic chemicals. Every baby should be born free of harmful chemicals in their bodies. Communities, workplaces, places of worship and play, homes and the products used therein should be free of toxic chemicals and the systemic racism that perpetuates them. These are fundamental human rights that have too long been violated. From West Virginia, Louisiana, Texas, Delaware, California, and the Arctic to Bhopal, we are committed to fighting together to advance the following goals:

 

Governments must enact meaningful and immediate reforms in the U.S. and globally that prevent future Bhopal disasters and restore and strengthen Bhopal survivors and their children. These reforms should advance environmental justice by taking immediate action to prevent disproportionate chemical exposures and hazards, and to reduce cumulative impacts in communities throughout the chemical lifecycle. Corporate actors must shift to safer chemical substitutes that reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change and do not substitute one toxic burden for another or shift the burden elsewhere. They must also be made to cease production and recover chemicals that are unsafe or accumulate in people and the environment. Community members and workers must be given the right-to-know, participate and decide whenever corporate actions affect their health. 

 

We specifically call on the United States Government, the Indian (Central and State) Government, Union Carbide Corporation, and Dow Chemical Company, to urgently comply with the demands outlined by the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal so that survivors and their children can, at long last, be made whole. These demands include: 

  1. Proper compensation;
  2. Bringing corporate criminals to justice;
  3. Providing adequate medical care and research necessary to address ongoing health needs and persistent contamination;
  4. Providing economic and social rehabilitation; and
  5. Executing environmental remediation to eliminate persistent contamination issues.

 

Until there is justice for Bhopal, our vision of a safe, healthy, equitable and just environment has not been achieved. We stand in solidarity with the people of Bhopal until these reforms and demands are met.

 

In Solidarity,

 

ORGANIZATIONS

350Africa.org, Regional

Africa Coal Network, Regional

Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Anchorage, AK

Amigues de la Tierra, Spain

Association Toxicologie-Chimie (ATC), Bruno van PETEGHEM, 2001 Goldman Environmental Prize, National

Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Center for Progressive Reform, Washington, D.C., National

Centre for Citizens Conserving Environment (CECIC), Uganda, Kampala

Clean and Healthy New York, Albany, NY

COECOCEIBA - Amigos de la Tierra Costa Rica, National - Costa Rica

Coming Clean, National

Concerned Citizens of Wagon Mound and Mora County, Wagon Mound, NM

Delaware Concerned Residents for Environmental Justice, Wilmington, DE

Earthlife Africa, South Africa

Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform, National

Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, Nigeria

Farmworkers Association of Florida, Apopka, FL

Fondo Acción Solidaria, AC, Mexico

Friends of the Earth Canada, National - Canada

Friends of the Earth India, New Delhi, India

Friends of the Earth U.S., National

Greenpeace USA, National

groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa, National

Health Care Without Harm, National

JA!Justica Ambiental/foeMozambique, National

Just Transition Alliance, San Diego, CA

Kentucky Environmental Foundation, KY

Los Jardines Institute, Albuquerque, NM

Mind the Store, National

Moms for a Nontoxic New York, NY

National Family Farm Coalition, National

North American Marine Alliance, National

People Concerned About Chemical Safety, Institute, WV

Pesticide Action Network, National

Public Citizen, National

REACT, Louisville, KY

Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, National

Socio-ecological union international, Global

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Durban, South Africa 

Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Houston, TX

The Greens Movement of Georgia/FoE Georgia

The New Environmental Justice Solutions, South Africa

Tierra Nativa / Amigos de la Tierra Argentina, Argentina

Toxic-Free Future, National

Toxic Free NC, Durham, NC

Until Justice Data Partners, Louisville, KY

 

INDIVIDUALS

Ferrial Adam, Johannesburg

Terry Allan, Charlottesville, VA

Dave Arndt, Baltimore, MD

Elgin Avila, National

Joanna Bornat

Andy Bourne

Kaitlin Brätt

Vanessa Cabanelas, Maputo, Mozambique

Rox Carter, Canada

Roshan Chandrakuma

P.Chellaiah, India

Lorraine Chiponda, Harare, Zimbabwe

Larkin Cleland, Columbus, OH

Emma Collison, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Inge d'Amour, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Madhumita Dutta, Columbus, OH

Mark Eastgate

Živa Kavka Gobbo, Ljubljana, Slovenija

David Hallowes

Amy Harlib, New York, NY

Dr. Laila Iskandar

Anabela Lemos, National

Sanford Lewis, Attorney, National

Natasha Lovato, Denver, CO

Nina Manners

Nele Mariën, Ghent, Belgium

Iris Neel

Nikhila Nyapathy, Somerville, MA

Dr. Sven (Bobby) Peek, Goldman Prize Recipient for Africa 1998

Ilham Rawoot, National

John Mark Robertson, Belleville, Ontario, Canada

Natalie Sampson, Ypsilanti, MI

Sumay Sarangi

Fatemeh Shafiei

Brian Shepherd, York, United Kingdom

Jessica Swan, NM

Apranta Teacher, Delhi, India

Mark Tucker

Keith Walton, London

Teresa Hackett

Eugene Cairncross, Cape Town, South Africa

 

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