There is enormous pressure on BP to pay full compensation for the environmental and economic devastation being caused in and around the Gulf of Mexico by its oil spill, and of course to make whatever amends it can for the eleven lives that were lost, and the seventeen who were injured, when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded.
This is both right and fair.
However, wouldn’t it be a great outcome if as a result of this disaster the world grew up in terms of making businesses pay their dues when things go wrong. One particular example I have in mind is Bhopal disaster caused when Union Carbide’s factory in Bhopal, India exploded. Numbers vary, in terms of how many died at the time and since, but figures of 15,000 are commonly quoted. The explosion happened in 1984, but the land is still polluted, the groundwater is polluted, and babies are being born deformed, and people are still dying. There has been no full compensation in Bhopal, and there is still a need for Union Carbide and its parent Dow Chemicals to take full responsibility and to put right the environment and pay compensation to all those materially impacted by their explosion.
In India the court case looking into the deaths has just concluded and is widely seen as a whitewash. Seven former employees have been found guilty of causing death by negligence and sentenced to two years in jail and fines of about $2000.
Dow Chemicals, who bought Union Carbide in 2001, $10.3 billion, which means Union Carbide’s debts should now be Dow Chemicals debts. Dow Chemicals position is that the $470 million paid in compensation has fully met the obligations of the company. This is clearly outrageous.
So, let’s raise our voices on behalf of the people and the environment in the Gulf of Mexico, but let’s also demand justice for people less able to defend themselves in courts, starting with justice for the people of Bhopal.
If you use Facebook and would like to add your voice to others, you can join a page calling for justice here.