As London prepares for the six-month countdown to the Olympic games the 1984 Bhopal chemical disaster in India remains a constant headache for the organisers and survivors alike.
Olympic chiefs on Thursday backed corporate sponsor Dow Chemical. The contract has angered many, including Meredith Alexander who resigned this week as environmental commissioner for the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG).
“Most of what LOCOG is saying in the press sounds very, very similar to the company’s line. So as I said, they are falsely legitimising Dow’s position that they have no responsibility for the tragedy in Bhopal. What LOCOG hasn’t done is listened to the victims, so I think they have got one side of the story and they are believing that one side and they haven’t really looked into the situation,” she said.
Many are outraged by Dow Chemical’s Olympic involvement. In India effigies have even been burnt of LOCOG chairman Seb Coe.
But LOCOG chief executive Paul Deighton defended the decision to keep as a sponsor the US multinational chemical corporation, which paid 470 million dollars in settlement to those affected by the disaster.
He said: “I think the counter position if you look at it carefully, there was a total settlement of those liabilities and I think the real question that needs to be asked is, you know, what happened to the money that Dow paid? And, you know, what is happening in India in terms of the responsibility to clear up that site?”
The Bhopal disaster is widely considered one of the world’s worst industrial catastrophes.
As many as 25,000 deaths have been attributed to the tragedy that occurred in 1984 when a leak of toxic gas from a Union Carbide pesticide plant, later taken over by Dow, swept across the region.
Residents still suffer ill health due to contaminated water.
Olympic environmental commissioner quits as Dow stays