Dow cowed

Protesters have had a dramatic victory at the site of Dow Chemical’s proposed new chemical plant at Pune, 150 kilometres southeast of Mumbai in India. Since 16 January, reports SchNEWS, villagers and other supporters have occupied a road – having dug it up with bullocks – to blockade and stop construction work on a new Dow Chemical research laboratory.

Dow owns Union Carbide, the chemical company responsible for a gas leak in Bhopal, India, in 1984, which killed 20,000 people. Nearly a quarter of a century later, 120,000 remain critically ill. The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal continues its fight to get Dow to accept full liability and provide compensation and healthcare provision for the survivors and victims’ families.

Armed police were sent in to break up the blockade after a massive protest rally on 28 February. Initially they arrested 12 women, but things got more heated when another group of 50-100 women surrounded the 200 police and held them hostage, demanding the release of the arrestees. Back-up police were called in, but due to the ensuing stand-off it took until after midnight before a further 143 were arrested. By morning, the protesters had built up numbers and tension increased once more – and the authorities started to take the threat seriously.

After the intervention of a judge, all arrestees were released unconditionally, and it was agreed to stop building work pending further Government investigation.

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New Internationalist issue 411 magazine cover This article is from the May 2008 issue of New Internationalist.
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