Daily wrong to hold Dow liable for Bhopal disaster

To the Daily:

Every year at this time I find myself cringing at the Daily’s erroneous regurgitation of the facts surrounding the 1984 chemical spill in Bhopal, India. This terrible tragedy resulted in the injury and deaths of several thousand people and was one of the worst industrial accidents in history. As the Daily chooses to repeat the detail of this event annually, I would like to suggest that in the future they get their facts together correctly.

In the article, (Students look to 20th anniversary of Bhopal disaster, 12/03/2004) Reddy, of the Students for Bhopal organization asserts that “Under court of law Dow is responsible” for the Bhopal incident. This is simply false. In 1984, the Bhopal site was under the control of Union Carbide India, Ltd. (UCIL), which was under the ownership of the Union Carbide Co. However, in 1989, Union Carbide, after paying $470 million to the Government of India (a settlement determined by the Indian Supreme Court to be “just, equitable and reasonable”), sold its assets in UCIL to McCleod Russel and was later renamed Eveready Industries India, Ltd. Thus, as of 1989, the Union Carbide Co. retained no assets or liabilities from its Indian operations — these were the sole responsibility of EIIL. The Union Carbide Co. and UCIL are not and have never been the same thing, the basis of much of the confusion surrounding this issue.

In 2001, The Dow Chemical Corp. purchased the stock of the Union Carbide Co., making it a separate legal entity, under the control of Dow. Dow did not acquire any of Union Carbine Co.’s assets or liabilities, but even if they had, there would still be no legal basis for claims to Dow’s culpability toward Bhopal –— these fall squarely on the shoulders of McCleod Russel, Eveready Industries India and the Indian Government.

Furthermore, the Dow Chemical Corp. has been an industry leader in the push for increased corporate social responsibility. A major tenet of its Environment, Health and Safety department and the corporation as a whole has been its “vision of zero” –— zero incidents, zero injuries, zero environmental harm. Bhopal was a terrible tragedy for the chemical industry, India and the world as a whole. The Daily, as an entity working to inform students, would behoove itself to go beyond the immediate sources of information on campus when attempting to cover issues of international scope.

Ted Matherly

LSA junior

The letter writer is a former Dow employee.

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