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Written By Gopal Krishna on Thursday, June 18, 2009 | 2:10 AM
As many as 27 American lawmakers have asked Dow Chemical Company, which now owns Union Carbide, to immediately take steps towards providing medical and economic rehabilitation to victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy.
'We request that Dow ensures a representative appear in the ongoing legal cases in India regarding Bhopal, that Dow meets the demands of the survivors for medical and economic rehabilitation, and cleans up the soil and groundwater contamination in and around the factory site,' the lawmakers said in a letter to Andrew Liveris, the Dow chairman and CEO.
The letter endorsed the survivors' demands for remediation, as put forth by the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, chiefly that Dow provide medical and economic rehabilitation and clean up the factory and groundwater contamination.
Congressman Frank Pallone led the effort to support the ICJB demands. A coalition of Bhopal survivors and their supporters worldwide, ICJB is working to force Dow to face trial in India and to pay for the disaster cleanup.
Nearly a quarter century after the initial disaster, the factory sits in ruins, with toxic chemicals strewn about the grounds, just yards from the homes of thousands of Bhopali families, ICJB said in a statement.
"After 25 years, the human and environmental tragedy of the Bhopal chemical disaster remains with us," Pallone said, adding that while thousands continue to suffer, Union Carbide and its successor, Dow Chemical, have yet to be brought to justice.
Members of Congress will continue to fight against companies that evade civil and criminal liability by exploiting international borders and legal jurisdictions, he said.
The "polluter pays" principle in the domestic laws of both India and America state that the polluter, rather than the public agencies or taxpayers, should be held responsible for its environmental pollution in its entirety, the Congressmen said in the letter.
'Despite repeated public requests and protests around the world, Union Carbide has refused to appear before the Bhopal District Court to face the criminal charges pending against it for the disaster,' the letter said.
Union Carbide was served with a summons to appear in Bhopal district court in 1992 and publicly stated it would not respond to the summons.
'Although Dow Chemical set aside USD 2.2 billion in 2002 to put towards Union Carbide's pending asbestos liabilities in the United States, it has continued to evade the liabilities it inherited from Bhopal,' the lawmaker said.
'However, the disaster continues, and is likely to worsen,' their letter said.
Lalit K Jha in Washington, DC
June 18, 2009