London - A new, beautifully-designed line of bottled water - this time not from the melting Alps, nor from faraway, clean-water-deprived Fiji, but rather from the contaminated ground near the site of the 1984 Bhopal catastrophe - scared Dow Chemical's London management team into hiding today.
Twenty Bhopal activists, including Sathyu Sarangi of the Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal, showed up at Dow headquarters near London to find that the entire building had been vacated.
Had they not fled, Dow employees could have read on the bottles' elegant labels:
B'eau-Pal: Our Story
The unique qualities of our water come from 25 years of slow-leaching toxins at the site of the world's largest industrial accident. To this day, Dow Chemical (who bought Union Carbide) has refused to clean up, and whole new generations have been poisoned. For more information, please visit http://www.bhopal.org.
The launch of "B'eau-Pal" water came as Bhopal prepares to mark the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal catastrophe, and coincides with the release of an official report by the Sambhavna Trust showing that local groundwater, vegetables, and breast milk are contaminated by toxic quantities of nickel, chromium, mercury, lead, and volatile organic compounds. The report describes how a majority of children in one nearby community are born with serious medical problems traceable to the contamination.
The attractive yet toxic product, developed by the Bhopal Medical Appeal and the Yes Men with pro-bono help from top London creative design firm Kennedy Monk (making-of video here), highlights Dow's continued refusal to take responsibility for the disaster. (Five years ago, the Yes Men impersonated Dow Chemical live on BBC World Television and announced that after 20 years, the company was finally going to clean up its mess in Bhopal. That hoax, which temporarily knocked two billion dollars off Dow's share price, is featured in the Yes Men's new movie, The Yes Men Fix The World, which opens in UK cinemas on August 11.)
Though Dow has consistently refused to clean up the mess in Bhopal, they have taken numerous steps to clean up their image. In a recent press release, for example, Andrew Liveris, Dow's Chairman and CEO, noted that "lack of clean water is the single largest cause of disease in the world and more than 4,500 children die each day because of it." He went on to assert that "Dow is committed to creating safer, more sustainable water supplies for communities around the world."
The Yes Men met Liveris' attempt to greenwash Dow's environmental record with a challenge.
"Since Liveris earns $16,182,544 per year, he could give each of the children who die worldwide for lack of clean water $10 per day to buy Evian, Fiji Water, or Perrier," said Mike Bonanno of the Yes Men. "Or, for vastly less money, he could build them clean-water pipelines, like the ones that Bhopal so badly needs."
Dow's greenwashing comes while Bhopal is experiencing an extremely rare drought, just three years after facing its greatest floods ever. "Even though people are already dying by the hundreds of thousands, and we know that climate change will kill many more, companies like Dow are not being forced to cut back on emissions," said the Sambhavna Clinic's Sathyu Sarangi. "Bhopal should be a lesson to the world - one we must learn before it's too late for all of us."
The Yes Men have elaborate plans to contribute to the movement for meaningful action on climate change, beginning in early September and culminating at the December climate talks in Copenhagen. To contribute financially to these efforts (which of course we can't tell you about), please visit www.theyesmen.org/donate/now. And if you live in New York and know how to sew, swim, get arrested, or pretty much anything else, please write to us.
* B'eau-Pal water: http://www.bhopalwater.com
* Information on Bhopal water study:
Bhopal Medical Appeal
Contact: Colin Toogood
T: +44 7798 845074
* The Yes Men in the UK: