Activists and survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster demonstrate. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)
Since we last told you about Dow Chemical’s controversial Olympic sponsorship, things seem to have only gotten worse for Dow Chemical – from a public relations perspective anyway. Along with Dow Chemical’s horribly insensitive comments, the increased media attention has only revealed additional ethically troubling business practices.
The International Olympic Committee and games’ organizers continue (for now) solidly and uncritically back Dow as a sponsor, despite harsh criticism from Amnesty and others. But if Dow Chemical was hoping that it might benefit from the benevolent glow of the Olympic spirit of international goodwill, the past few weeks have not been kind.
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By Anna Phelan, Amnesty International USA’s Business and Economic Relations Group
Last week President Obama and Prime Minister Singh met to discuss U.S.-India relations; it was the first state visit of President Obama’s administration. According to news reports, the two heads of state discussed working together as natural allies on intelligence issues as well as energy security, clean energy, agriculture and climate change issues. Did President Obama use this opportunity to also address human rights concerns in India? And in particular, did they discuss Bhopal?
Twenty-five years ago, a toxic gas leak at Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, India caused more than 7,000 immediate deaths. Since then, 25,000 people have died and 100,000 suffer from ongoing health problems. Let me be more specific. The survivors and their children, a second generation of survivors, live with debilitating illnesses including cancer and birth defects. The plant site has not been cleaned up. Toxic wastes continue to pollute the environment and ground water. No one has been held accountable, despite years of legal proceedings in both the Indian and U.S. court systems. In short, survivors have been denied adequate compensation, medical care, rehabilitation of disaster site, and justice.
In India last week, the biggest daily newspapers — The Deccan Herald, The Telegraph, and The Times of India — all reported on the Indian government’s flawed decision to mark the 25th anniversary by opening the Bhopal disaster site to the public.
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