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NZer arrested trying to cleanup Bhopal toxic waste

Greenpeace New Zealand activist arrested trying to clean up toxic waste in Bhopal, India

Delhi, 25 November 2002: Police brutally arrested 56 volunteers, including survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster and Greenpeace activists from 14 countries, to prevent them from cleaning up dangerous toxic waste in Bhopal.

The volunteers were attempting to safely contain some of the hundreds of tonnes of toxic chemicals abandoned in Bhopal by the U.S. multinational, after a gas leak at its factory caused the world’s worst industrial disaster killing 8,000 people within days and injured half a million.

“It’s Dow, as the new owner of Union Carbide, that’s behaving criminally by abandoning these poisons here, not these peaceful volunteers. It's surprising that the Government of India arrested us rather than supporting our efforts to protect people and make sure Dow accepts it's responsibilities in Bhopal," said Greenpeace New Zealand activist, Mr. Phil Woollam, who was among those arrested this morning.

Despite repeated demands by Bhopal survivors, neither Union Carbide nor Dow have come forward to clean up the site. Greenpeace scientific assessments have found hundreds of tonnes of toxic pesticides and other hazardous materials throughout the factory that have leaked into the soil and contaminated the water used by nearby communities. The factory site and surrounding area is an ongoing threat to the health of 500 families that live nearby.

"Here in Bhopal, many people say the lucky ones are those who died in 1984. Dow's refusal to clean up the factory site is poisoning us daily. By refusing to clean up the site, Dow is exposing another generation of children to dangerous chemicals. They can arrest us but will not stop us in our struggle for justice,” said Rashida Bi, who survived the 1984 gas disaster.

"The Bhopal disaster will not end until Dow Chemicals cleans up Bhopal, provides medical assistance, clean running drinking water and full compensation to survivors," Dow has accepted liabilities for environmental crimes committed by Union Carbide in the U.S., now it must accept its liabilities here in India," added Woollam.

For further information or interviews contact: In Bhopal contact Phil Woollam on 021 614 899, Greenpeace media officer, Matilida Bradshaw on + 91982 103 1453 or in New Zealand Brendan Lynch on 021 790 817 Photos: John Novis + 31 653819121

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