Up the Leak Without a Paddle
New documents point to Union Carbide culpability on Bhopal
Since the Bhopal disaster in 1984, Union Carbide Corp. (UCC), owner of the leaking chemical plant, has denied responsibility, saying that its Indian subsidiary (Union Carbide India Limited, or UCIL) was solely responsible for the plant’s design and management. But newly uncovered documents cast doubt on that claim, indicating that UCC provided substantial help in procuring safety equipment and other parts and providing technical consultation on the plant, and also engaged in cost-cutting at its Indian subsidiary. In light of what followed, the final line of one document is chilling: “Union Carbide’s know-how, technical support, and majority ownership of UCIL provide assurance of technical competence.” Meanwhile, last week an enterprising activist embarrassed Dow Chemical, which now owns UCC, by posing as a representative of the company on BBC TV news and pledging $12 billion to help the suffering survivors in Bhopal. Dow was then forced to do damage control and explain that it had no intention of giving a single penny to the victims.