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Dow Chem to assist Bhopal gas victims: Congressman

Written by: Staff

Washington, Mar 24: Leading Democratic Congressman from New Jersey Frank Pallone Junior introduced a legislation, Chemical Security Act, saying Dow Chemicals, which had bought Union Carbide in 2001, has the resources to help the eight lakh people of Bhopal who were devastated by the gas tragedy.

Pallone said Dow Chemical was now responsible for the Bhopal gas tragedy which claimed 20,000 lives more than 20 years ago.

''The Bhopal disaster is an event that shocked the world and remains a vivid memory for those who heard what happened.

Unfortunately, many of the victims and their families that remain in Bhopal have yet to receive reparations. It's outrageous that over twenty years have passed yet the CEOs of Union Carbide and its successor Dow Chemical have not brought justice to the victims,'' remarked Mr Pallone.

Pallone, founder-member of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, was addressing a press conference in front of the Dow Chemical Company plant in Piscataway, NJ. He was joined by Bhopal activists and the family of survivors to point out the devastating effects chemical spills can have and to stress measures that can be taken to prevent them.

He said it was unacceptable to allow an American company not only to exploit international borders and legal jurisdictions but also to evade civil and criminal liability for environmental pollution and abuses committed overseas. These injustices cannot continue, he added.

''In Bhopal, some of the world's poorest people are being mistreated by one the world's richest corporations,'' Mr Pallone said.

''As we continue to work on getting justice for the victims of the Bhopal disaster, we also need to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again, especially here in New Jersey where there are so many chemical plants,'' he added.

''The federal EPA has identified 123 facilities across the country where a terrorist attack or accident could lead to a toxic release threatening the life and health of more than 1 million people -- seven of which are in New Jersey. In the wake of the September 11 attack much time and effort in Congress and throughout the federal government has been devoted in understanding where our nation's vulnerabilities lie. But we have still done virtually nothing on chemical security,'' Mr Pallone said.

Both Congress and the administration had largely bowed to the chemical industry's wishes. On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff urged the Congress to move quickly to pass legislation on chemical security but what he proposed was weak and would likely prevent New Jersey's tough new security regulations, he said.

Pallone has introduced the Chemical Security Act which would require that the EPA work with the Department of Homeland Security to identify high priority chemical facilities and require that they conduct vulnerability assessments. EPA would also require these facilities to provide certified response plans so that they are prepared for catastrophes. In addition, there are provisions for giving financial assistance to plants that cannot afford safety upgrades and grants to train first responders and chemical plant employees.

''We can never forget what happened at Bhopal, and we must make every effort possible to ensure that nothing like that ever happens again. I will continue to urge my colleagues in Congress to pass meaningful chemical security legislation, and will continue to work with these activists to see that justice is done for the survivors of the Bhopal tragedy,'' he said.

On the night of December 2, 1984, 27 tons of highly toxic gas leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal. More than twenty years later, estimates say that 20,000 people died as a result of the leak and 1,20,000 were injured.

On February 20, more than 130 survivors of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, began to march on foot to New Delhi, demanding justice and a life of dignity for those affected by the tragedy and its aftermath. The march is the biggest and most important action ever organised by the Bhopal campaign.


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