New York, Sep 2: Lawyers representing communities living near the site of the Bhopal gas disaster, the world's worst industrial disaster, argued before the US Court of Appeals that Union Carbide Corp. (UCC) was responsible for water pollution from toxic chemicals that leached underground from the plant and continues to foul wells.
Over a year ago, a New York federal district court found that UCC could not be sued, despite compelling evidence that UCC caused the harm, according to EarthRights International (ERI), which represents the plaintiffs.
"The plaintiffs have provided substantial evidence that demonstrates UCC's responsibility," said Richard Herz, senior litigation attorney for EarthRights International (ERI).
"Two leading experts concluded that UCC's technology and waste disposal strategy for the plant was improper for the site, and caused the water pollution that we still see today."
Additionally, the manager who oversaw the construction of the plant confirmed that he worked for UCC, not for the Indian subsidiary that officially operated the plant.
But the federal district court ruled that UCC was not sufficiently involved in the acts at the plant and that the project manager actually worked for the subsidiary.
Because the plaintiffs believe that the district court improperly disregarded evidence of UCC's responsibility, they appealed to the Second Circuit appeals court, said the ERI statement.
On December 2, 1984, poisonous gas from the Bhopal chemical plant enveloped nearby communities, killing thousands of people. The water pollution was unrelated to the gas disaster, but has been leaching from the same plant ever since it was shut down afterward, said ERI.
Marco Simons, ERI's general counsel, added: "These families have been living with Union Carbide's pollution for decades. We remain committed to seeking the justice that they deserve."
In addition to ERI, the plaintiffs are being represented by Rajan Sharma.
ERI is a non-governmental, non-profit organisation that combines the power of law and the power of people in defence of human rights and the environment, which it defines as "earth rights".