Dow Chemical not to be blamed for Bhopal tragedy - spokesman

23 June 2010 05:42  [Source: ICIS news]

SINGAPORE (ICIS news)--Dow Chemical said late on Tuesday that efforts to tie the company to the Bhopal gas disaster were “inappropriate”, amid speculation in the Indian media that the government would try to elicit compensation from the firm.

“There are some who continue to try to affix responsibility for the Bhopal tragedy to Dow Chemical, but the fact is that Dow never owned, operated or inherited the facility in Bhopal and efforts to attach Dow [to the accident] are inappropriate and misdirected,” company spokesman Scot Wheeler said in an email reply to ICIS.

The accident on 3 December 1984, in which over 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate leaked from a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, was one of the worst industrial disasters in India.

The leak killed thousands and exposed another half a million people to toxic fumes, according to media reports.

An Indian court convicted eight people earlier this month in connection to the tragedy and their sentences are expected soon.

Wheeler added that efforts to attach responsibility to Dow Chemical, which bought Union Carbide in 1999, were inappropriate as the latter company had sold away its interest in its Indian unit at the time of the takeover.

Union Carbide India Limited, the company that owned and operated the Bhopal plant, is a viable corporation that still exists to this day and has been renamed Eveready Industries India Limited, said Wheeler.

“Dow has never been connected to this company,” said Wheeler.

The Indian central government – acting on behalf of the victims – negotiated a $470m (€380.7m) settlement and fully released Union Carbide Corporation and its Indian unit from any civil liability for the gas tragedy, according to Wheeler.

According to local media reports a panel of senior Indian ministers' finalised new recommendations on Monday for action after a rise in public anger over the government’s handling of the case, as well as the Supreme Court’s decision to downgrade the charges against the Union Carbide managers who had been convicted.

The ministers' recommendations included an increase in compensation for the victims of the Bhopal disaster as well as pursuing the former head of Union Carbide, Warren Anderson, who is retired and currently resides in the United States.

"We do have sympathy for the plight of those who are victims of the tragedy and its aftermath and we would all agree that their issues do need to be addressed," Wheeler said.

"The solution to this problem, however, rests in the hands of the Indian central and state governments," he added.

($1 = €0.81)

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By: Nurluqman Suratman

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