Type: spoof commodity-based activist campaign
Page reference: Parkin, J. (2013) ‘B’eau Pal Water. followthethings.com (www.followthethings.com/beaupal.shtml last accessed <insert date here>)
There’s a new brand of bottled water, and unlike the others, it’s 100% politically correct. But you wouldn’t want to drink it. ‘B’eau-Pal Bottled Water’ was launched yesterday in London. In beautifully designed bottles, it is authentic water from Bhopal, India (Source: Sturr 2009, np link).
‘B'eau Pal’ sounds like ‘Bhopal’ - and that is it, because it comes from the Indian city (Source: Knuwer 2009, p.12).
The Yes Men …launched ‘B’eau Pal’ … water … from a hand pump [in the] Atal Ayub Nagar slum, a neighbourhood of Bhopal. The label announced in big red letters: ‘The extraordinary qualities of our water come from twenty-five years of infiltration of toxins at the site of [the] worst industrial accident in the world’ (Source: Anon 2012a, np).
This 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 was launched recently in London (Source: Suramya 2009, np link).
B'eau Pal Water is a new mineral-rich water inspired by the crispy water from Bhopal, courtesy of Dow Chemical, whose commitment is to provide you with the essential minerals that people in places like Vietnam, Michigan, USA and Bhopal, India have enjoyed for years (Source: SfB.Website 2009, np link).
On the plus side, B’eauPal is very low in sodium. On the minis side, it’s extremely high in Carbon Tetrachloride which isn’t very good for you (Source: Copyranter 2009, np link).
The campaign features a beautiful red label and even includes a nutrition label, which indicates the drink has: 0 calories, 0 grams of fat, 22 mg of sodium, 400% Dichlormethane, 200,000% Carbon Tetrachlorid, 250% Chloroform (Source: 40brown 2009, np link).
In 2009 the Bhopal Medical Appeal and the YesMen took a lovely looking bottle of B'eaPal mineral water along to Dow's HQ in Staines to see if any of their execs might like to drink it. It was, in fact, filled with water from a hand-pump in Atul Ayab Nagar, just outside of the abandoned Union Carbide factory in Bhopal. A.A.Nagar is home to several hundred families and the water in this bottle was from one of the hand pumps being used as their primary source of drinking water. The [Bhopal Medical Appeal] had recently had this water tested, with the help of Greenpeace and the University of Exeter, and it was determined that the water was so full of toxic chemicals that it should not be used. Not only should it not be drunk but it was too toxic to use at all - not even to wash clothes in (Source: Bhopal Medical Appeal 2013, np link).
The label … underlines Dow's continued refusal to take responsibility for this disaster by communicating the extremely disastrous effects that continue to wreak havoc on the area (Source: Smith 2009, np link).
The bottle looks beautiful. It sports an old-fashioned spring-top stopper. The red, diamond-shaped label features an elegant font. From a distance, the silhouetted landscape on the label looks exotic. It is, like all fine gourmet water, ‘bottled at source.’ Even the French name of the water suggests elegance: B'eau Pal. But wait: B'eau Pal? That sounds rather familiar. You look at the label more carefully. The top of the label reads: ‘25 years of pollution.’ The picture on the label isn't an exotic location after all. It's … the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India that poisoned a half a million people and killed thousands back in 1984 when it accidentally released tons of methyl isocyanate (Source: Feffer 2009, np link).
One swig and you're whisked away to Bhopal, India where in 1984 an explosion at a Union Carbide pesticide factory killed thousands and released a health nightmare that still persists (Source: Gordon 2009, np link).
Documentary filmmakers The Yes Men and health activists from industrially contaminated Bhopal, India, converged on Midland-based Dow Chemicals offices near London on Monday to present a new line of attractive yet toxic bottled water called B’eau Pal, referring to the city where thousands died in 1984 after the release of cyanide gas from a facility then owned by Union Carbide. The action, organizers said, was designed to highlight the contradiction between Dows recent water themed public relations efforts and its refusal to address the water contamination issues at its own property (Source: Melzer 2009, np).
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’ (Source: texastoast 2009a, np link).
Dow officials had gotten wind they were coming; when they arrived, the entire building was empty, all the employees having been dismissed early. ‘They ran away,’ [Yes Man] Bonanno says. ‘Rather than deal with it, they wanted nothing to do with us and just sent everybody home’ (Source: Barnes 2009, np).
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 (Source: Anon 2009a, np link).
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’ (Source: Anon 2009a, np link).
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 (Source: Bichlbaum 2009, np link).
B’eau-Pal is the inspired concoction of The Yes Men, a group of culture-jammers who define their work as ‘Identity Correction - Impersonating big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them. Targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else’ (Source: Sturr 2009, np link).
As you may have guessed, B’eauPal’s the faux French name for the chemical tainted water in Bhopal, India, where 25 years ago, a huge industrial accident resulted in a huge chemical spill that killed thousands of people. Believe it or not, that horrendous spill still hasn’t been cleaned up - neither by Union Carbide, which created the accident, nor by Dow Chemical, which bought Union Carbide in 2001. That means Bhopal residents still have contaminated water. Which is why The Yes Men have now taken Dow Chemical’s ‘Let them drink B’eauPal’ attitude and given it a fresh and attractive packaging, thanks to some help from London design firm Kennedy Monk. The Dow Chemical logo-inspired B’eau Pal logo’s affixed on an elegantly shaped bottle, which lets would-be drinkers know that ‘The unique qualities of our water come from 25 years of slow-leaching toxins at the site of the world’s largest industrial accident.’ The sad hilarity doesn’t stop there. B’eau-Pal comes with an ingredient list that boasts the bottle contains dichlormethane, carbon tetrachloride, and chloroform - chemicals that create health problems ranging from optic neuropathy to hepatitis to burns to coma to death (Source: Ju 2009, np link).
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 [video below] highlights Dow's continued refusal to take responsibility for the disaster (Source: Bichlbaum 2009, np link).
The water was launched in London and, after it had been shown to the press and the public, both the bottled water and the Sambhavna water report were taken down to Dow's UK headquarters in Staines, west of London. We had filled one of the bottles with genuine toxic water from Bhopal and our plan was to challenge the Dow executives to drink it. We didn't expect them to want to drink the water but, and this really took us by surprise, Dow had got wind of there being ‘some kind of protest’ afoot and had simply vacated their HQ for the day! As you can imagine this didn't exactly do our news coverage any harm, ‘activists shut down Dow for a day’ indeed (Source: Anon 2000a, np link).
B'eau Pal bottled water (‘not fit for human consumption,’ by the way) is not the first time the Yes Men have wagged a shaming middle finger at Dow, the company that bought Union Carbide and denies responsibility for the disaster's fallout (Source: Gordon 2009, np link).
A member of the group famously posed as a Dow Chemical executive on the BBC in 2004 and said the company would liquidate its Union Carbide unit to make reparations for environmental disaster at Bhopal (Source: O’Dwyer 2009, 3).
Andy Bichlbaum, appeared on BBC as a spokesman for Dow Chemical, which now owns Union Carbide, to announce that his company would provide $12 billion in medical care for the 120,000 victims of the Bhopal calamity and fully clean up the site. Dow lost $2 billion in market value in 20 minutes. That's how long it took before the hoax was exposed (Source: Feffer 2009, np link).
The Bhopal Medical Appeal (BMA) has taken on its first PR agency to publicise the 25th anniversary of 'the worst industrial disaster in human history'. Bright Young Things Communications will help raise the current low public awareness levels of the Bhopal disaster in the run-up to the anniversary. It will also undertake a brand audit and help the charity put together an ongoing comms strategy for 2010. The agency will particularly focus on a younger audience to create a new generation of supporters. ... The BMA wants to educate young adults about the disaster and publicise the area's ongoing problems and continuing need for funds. BMA special events organiser Colin Toogood said: 'A lot of young adults weren't born when the disaster took place. Other people aren't aware there are ongoing issues such as birth defects and environmental pollution.' Previously, the charity has raised money by taking out full-page advertisements in The Guardian, written by Man Booker Prize shortlisted author and co-founder Indra Sinha. But now Sinha is retiring, the charity is looking at other ways of raising funds. It is particularly keen to drive users to its website to donate online. Initially Bright Young Things will work on a pro bono basis, but it may become a paid account from January (Source: Magee 2009, np link).
Yes, we also feel that there is an element of Bhopal being a ‘forgotten disaster’ and we, at the Bhopal Medical Appeal, are trying to change that. People who were too young to have been around, at the time of the disaster, need to know what happened and, just as importantly, what is STILL happening in Bhopal. We are only a tiny organisation, with very limited resources, and were very lucky to have this opportunity to tie up with the Yes Men for this publicity stunt. We hope that this is, at least, a start as far as getting the issues across to a younger audience is concerned. We will also be looking at developing some ... other web ideas ... We do have a Twitter account but I’m afraid we don’t have too many followers yet! I was very busy Tweeting, while we were having the fun and games with the Yes Men, but I have less interesting stuff to put on it now!! The Twit profile is BhopalAppeal [correction, @BhopalMedAppeal]. But we will certainly be developing these things as we get closer towards the anniversary and we are always very happy to hear from people who want to get involved/ help out (Source: Toogood 2009a, np link).
Now I’m trying to build a life for our product, beyond this stunt, and I am currently negotiating with a couple of London-based magazines to try to secure advertising space. I want to run what looks like a pretty straight ad, for B'eauPal water, which will look a little like our website. From our point of view this stunt had two main aims: one to raise general awareness of the toxic water problem in Bhopal and, perhaps more critical for us, to reach a new group of people. Our supporter base tends to be made up of slightly older people and this year, which is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the original disaster, we believe that it is crucial for us create a new, younger audience. Hopefully the publicity we have had so far, for B'eauPal, is a good way to start doing this (Source: Toogood 2010, np link).
Check out a pic of the designer water B'eaupal'. Pretty!! (Source: jamers 2009, np link).
very funny and very clever (Source: Brayne 2009, np link).
Dow Chemical have also just been made a laughing stock again, being presented with bottles of toxic B’eau Pal water (Anon 2009b, np).
Looks like an ancient Pepsi bottle. And I love the ‘bottled at the source'. The Yes Men rock. (Source: texastoast 2009b, np link).
You have to hand it to The Yes Men. … these folks continue to show that they have the skills and the stones to offer up some of the most entertaining and engaging ethically-framed advocacy and critical rhetoric going (Source: Meisner 2009, np link).
As the latest Lords of Misrule, the Yes Men aim to change the rules of the game. They're not satisfied with an annual flouting of tradition. They're not interested in turning poisoned water into a high-end beverage as a one-off prank. They want to continually bring the high low and the low high, smothering the corporate elite in their own puffery and amplifying the voices of the victims (Source: Feffer 2009, np link).
You have to admit, as culture jamming goes, this is the most effective act of corporate identity re-alignment in a long time. The B’eau Pal pun is funny until you remember that over 30,000 have died as a concequence of the chemical leak from the Union Carbide plant in India 25 years ago (Source: Shaw 2009 np, link).
This is a classic, opportunistic publicity stunt brilliantly conceived and executed with a great deal of style, acumen and panache. And if you'll forgive the pun, not a little ‘bottle’ (a commonly used London term for courageous risk-taking). The B’Eau Pal adventure is in a very good cause indeed. This year sees the 25th anniversary of a horrendous crime, the worst-ever man made disaster in peace time, which has killed tens of thousands of innocent inhabitants of the city of Bhopal in India. Twenty-five years on and they still haven’t cleaned up the site! That is worth protesting, fundraisers (Source: Toogood 2010, np link).
This is deadly serious stuff. But remember: If you can't laugh, don't bother to join their revolution … The real Lords of Misrule are still in place. The Yes Men are calling all jesters. Let the games begin (Source: Feffer 2009, np link).
The Yes Men brought their new product to Dow’s UK headquarters yesterday - but no one was home. … Guess they all went out for drinks (Source: Sturr 2009, np link).
The devil-worshipping predatory capitalists of Dow Chemicals / Union Carbide need to reimburse the poor, innocent victims of the Bhopal tragedy. I respect the passive resistance of the Yes Men. They are comedic angels who are advancing humanity. India should BAN DOW CHEMICAL PRODUCTS TO INDIA UNTIL THEY REIMBURSE THE INDIANS AND ADMIT GUILT. In return, the Indians should allow business relations with Union Carbide, and accept them as friends without any historical grievances (Source: boston-mahesh 2009, np link).
I remember when that happened... Horrible, horrible thing (Source: Jean, just theteeniest bit odd, F. 2009, np link).
Definitely, I remember it well (Source: Hill 2009, np link).
I will need to read more about this. Dow's lack of action is disgusting but the hoax and water bottle stunt are keeping Dow's lack of action in the spotlight (Source: Kat W. 2009, np link).
make them drink gallons of this contaminated water so they become extinct (Source: Chitrasuchi nd, np link).
Dow chemical got off so easy. I would like to make them drink the water. I do not see how this was considered an ‘accident’ or even a white collar crime. People knew it was going to happen ... just a matter of town. I personally would like to put that water on ice for the folks at Dow (Source: Amanda, ‘middle of nowhere’ C. 2009, np link).
They have deep sympathy for the victims of Bhopal, Dow wrote ... but protests were ‘misguided’ … ‘We are not dangerous, we only want to attract attention,’ [Yes Man] Bichlbaum told [us] (Source: Knuwer 2009, p.12).
Why is the government not sending troops over there to safeguard the lives of the inhabitants of Bhopal who have no way of defending themselves against this terrible assault on their lives? (Source: claritel 2010, np link).
The campaign is clever, but not designed for mass distribution. Rather, the Yes Men had hoped to present the bottles to Dow Chemical executives earlier this month. However, word got out, and protesters found the Dow building completely empty. Had there been some kind of confrontation, perhaps there would have been more press, and consequently more awareness. Unfortunately, all that’s left is a pretty bottle of poisoned water. While I like the idea for the campaign, I can’t help feel like it is just there to make US feel better. Sure its witty. If the Dow folks had been there, we could really smirk. And hopefully the coverage would have raised some awareness and possible generated some funds. But was there really hope that the campaign would change Dow’s mind about taking responsibility? I’d like to know how the campaign measures success in this case? What’s the return on investment here? (Source: 40brown 2009, np link).
the return on investment for the B’eauPal publicity stunt was excellent thanks! The financial investment was tiny. The Yes Men’s publicity team paid for the cost of the bottles (100 bottles made) and the design agency contributed their time free of charge. Everything else was done with the help of volunteers. We had some good coverage in the printed press and have been extremely well reported online. It made little difference whether the Dow executives were there or not as the vacated offices made a good, but different story. Of course we don’t expect a stunt like this to change Dow’s position re Bhopal but we do hope that we’re raising awareness with a new generation of potential supporters (Source: Toogood 2009b, np link).
This great awareness campaign caught my eye. Notice how the bottle of B’eau Pal water looks nicely designed at first; initial impressions don’t last long, however, as the public soon realizes it’s an awareness stunt to get the industrial corporation Dow to take responsibility of the largest industrial catastrophe the world has seen (Source: Trendhead 2009, np link).
The Yes Men's publicists, McAinsh Consulting, are also helping to push out the story and they are able to reach areas that might be difficult for us. Our connection with the stunt and the credibility this gave it, especially with the ‘timely’ publication of the report on toxic water, helped it to be seen as making a serious point. This has made this stunt particularly successful. Also, by combining our resources we have achieved much greater results, we have been able to multiply the value of our mutual publicity efforts rather than just simply adding them together (Source: Toogood 2010, np link).
Some good coverage in the print media. We had a piece in the London Paper, the front cover of Eastern Eye (the UK's biggest Asian newspaper) and CtrlAltShift (the youth off-shoot of Christian Aid) will be featuring the story. Also various mentions in articles where we have piggy-backed publicity linked to the Yes Men’s forthcoming film release, including the Guardian and the forthcoming edition of Wired. But, online this story has really gone down a storm. We were featured on Yahoo news, Worldwide, on the day of the stunt. We’ve been a featured video on MSN and Tiscali Green and many other video sites. The story has now been carried by literally hundreds of websites – news, environmental, water industry, activism and design – and countless blog entries (Source: Toogood 2010, np link).
‘Given that some younger people (at least in this video) have no memory of this disaster, I think that this PR gimmick is effective in raising awareness about both the disaster itself, and the fact that much, much more needs to be done. Bhopal is a forgotten tragedy, plain and simple.’ I hadn't even heard of the Yes Men till this post, and inspite of a high profile novel that made it to the Booker shortlist just a year or two ago, there's no talk about it. Heck, there's not even the highest form of homage one can pay to serious issues - a Facebook meme, or a Twitter profile pic mod, that everybody's participating in right now. [Dow CEO] Warren Anderson will live out his life in the comfortable confines of Long Island, and neither the US nor the Indian government cares a whit about having him answer for the cwna disaster, in spite of toothless subpoenas, letters, and declarations of abscondment and contempt of court. The top industrial houses all support Dow's indemnity for their own personal interests, be it Ratan Tata, or Ambani, who even was seriously considering buying Dow just two years ago. I am glad the Yes Men are doing their bit, but I don't really have hope that this egregious crime will enter the public consciousness (Source: Rahul 2009, np link).
INDIA MAY have sent rockets into space. But as a nation, we are not yet potty trained. With more than six decades of industrialisation behind us, one would think that India would have a policy to deal with the remediation and restoration of pollution hotspots. But no. Our continued bungling of the Union Carbide contamination in Bhopal is a sorry case in point. In the lead up to the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas leak, the Madhya Pradesh government wanted to convey to people that the issue of contamination had been resolved, and that time was such a great healer that even without doing anything, the highly contaminated Bhopal factory site had magically cleaned itself up. How did the government do that? By getting scientists to say that the site is safe and that whatever was toxic is no longer toxic. … Bhopal activists countered this scientific skullduggery in their own comical, cynical way. Exactly a week before the 25th anniversary, they served up a banquet with a difference. On the menu was an assortment of 'toxic delicacies' - Semi-processed Pesticide on Watercress; Naphthol Tar Fondue; Sevin Tar Souffle; Reactor Residue Quiche; and Lime Sludge Mousse. All served with a complimentary bottle of B'eau Pal water. ‘Your appetite will contribute to a cleaner Bhopal,’ invitees were told. [R] Vijayaraghavan [Director of the Defence Research Development Establishment] was named as the chef of the faux banquet (Source: Anon 2011a, np).
A group of middle-aged women in their colourful saris and dark burqas stand before the gates of the abandoned Union Carbide pesticide factory, where they had laid out a long tablecloth and series of plates for the various government ministers and scientific officials whom they had invited to their 'Benign Buffet'. None of the invitees had shown up, but still the women continue to serve plates of sludge from the factory grounds, accompanied by water from the wells beside the factory (Source: Spiegel 2011, p.8 link).
The ‘servers’ ... were primarily women survivors of the 1984 Gas Leak, still living in the area surrounding the now abandoned factory. What they placed on display was the vulnerability, not of external surfaces and skin but rather of internal fluids, and the continuity between environmental flows of groundwater, chemicals flowing from the factory, and the corporeal flows of fluids within the human body (Source: Spiegel 2011, p.149-50 link).
Facing questions from the local, national and international media, the survivors went on with rehearsed tales of their misery, repeating each sentence several times as television journalists asked them for a 'bite.' Rehearsed tales? Of course. They have been doing this for years. They have been 'camera ready' since 1984, with the media feeding off on them every year since the tragedy occurred. And yet, as the establishment ushers them into the 25th year of their misery, nothing seems to have changed. 'Look at this,' says Laksmi Bai of Prem Nagar, holding out a bottle of acid-like golden yellow liquid. 'The government wants us to believe this is water fit for human consumption. It has corroded all my utensils, leaves a yellow haldi-like residue and causes skin irritation.' Yet, they drink it everyday. The tragedy ruined an entire generation and did not just stop at that (Source: Singh 2009, np link + see photo of the buffet in this article).
Invitations had been sent to members of the state cabinet as well as to the Director of the Defence Research Development Establishment and the Director of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, who had certified Union Carbide’s chemical wastes to be orally ingestible. The menu of the Benign Buffet parodied that of a high society dinner, with which these officials would presumably have been familiar, but dramatized the state of the soil and water that survivors consumed regularly. The invitation promised delicacies prepared 'with extracts from Union Carbide’s Factory'. ... Invited officials were conspicuously absent at the banquet. Nevertheless, the ‘feast’ was served to their empty places before the watchful gaze of the media. On the table sat a large paper-machée crow, a symbol of deceit harkening back to the Hindi proverb: 'Jhoot bole kaua kaate' (crow bites liars) invoked as a part of a campaign to 'nail the state government’s lies' (Source: Spiegel 2011, p.145 link).
... the cocktails of B’eau Pal water, for instance, which appeared on the menu in the invitation to the Benign Buffet, was an invention borne of an ICJB [International Campaign for Justice for Bhopal ] / Yes Men collaboration in the United Kingdom when the Yes Men circulated bottles of water, claimed to be bottled at the source of the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, with logos parodying the red triangle of the Dow logo and a small warning that read 'not fit for human consumption'. Clearly there is a far different resonance when Bhopalis offer their elected officials a sip of the water they drink daily, than when the Yes Men and their volunteers offer a mimicked bottle of B’eau Pal to pedestrians on the streets of a major world centre like London (Source: Spiegel 2011, p.175 link).
Through an analysis of ... 'A Benign Buffet' I argue that the manner in which scientific knowledge is appropriated by those living around the abandoned factory puts on display their vulnerability in order to promote ... a 'trans-corporeal ethic' amongst spectators that serves as an intervention into what practices and bodies will be taken to matter in the political ecology of the region (Source: Spiegel 2011, p.141 link).
I am arguing that the ritualistic disturbances launched by the political theatrics investigated here, function by circulating desires and affects so as to orient the terrain of politics. These, as discussed .. regarding the Benign Buffet, function through a series of ethical appeals that seek to break into the logics of governance by way of altering the systems of valuation. Affects such as anger, sorrow and vulnerability cultivate new collectives, challenging the distributions of power (whether chemical or capital) (Source: Spiegel 2011, p.169-70 link).
One, fairly funny story, of snooping and skullduggery around my work involved a PR stunt that we pulled in conjunction with the Yes Men earlier this year. ... We filled some of the bottles with the genuine toxic water, from Bhopal, and arranged to take it down to Dow’s HQ in Staines to see if the execs fancied drinking some of their own wares. Somewhere along the line Dow got wind of what we were up to, despite the fact that we were on a sort of ‘Escape from Colditz’ level of security, and when we got to Staines we found that they had vacated their entire HQ for the day. It was a bit bizarre, and wasn’t exactly what we were expecting, but I can’t say it exactly did our story much harm - ‘Activists shut down Dow for the day’ indeed. Unbelievably, this PR stunt has now been cited, in court, as an example of harassment by Dow. My Mum’s very proud (Source: Toogood in Skrufff 2009, np link).
Activists protesting against Dow Chemical's sponsorship in London Olympics 2012 have challenged London Mayor Boris Johnson and Olympic Committee head Sebastian Coe to drink the contaminated ground water from the site of the Bhopal Gas disaster (Source: NDTV Correspondent 2012, np link).
Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North and Chairman of the Labour Friends of India organisation, also issued a direct challenge to Lord Coe to either drop Dow Chemical’s from their position as an Olympic sponsor, or sample some of Bhopal’s water that Dow claims is perfectly clean. The protest, which also involved briefly occupying Trafalgar Square and wrapping a banner around the London 2012 count-down clock, was also joined by Bhopal gas-disaster survivor and activist Farah Edwards. Campaigners such as Farah continue to criticise the Dow Chemical Company for what they claim is an incredibly irresponsible disinformation campaign regarding the validity of evidence stating that Bhopal’s water is poisoned. Despite huge amounts of research by Greenpeace, ICSE (Indian Centre for Science and Environment), The Bhopal Medical Appeal and the BBC finding that water is definitely contaminated to deadly levels Dow continue to claim no evidence has been found. ... MP Barry Gardiner has been campaigning with the Bhopal Medical Appeal not only for justice for Bhopal victims, but for a transparent investigation into how and why Dow Chemicals were selected by LOCOG as a sponsor, despite their seemingly awful record. At the protest in Trafalgar Square yesterday he stated tha 'we have just 200 days to kick Dow Chemicals out of these Olympics … Union Carbide, who are wholly owned by Dow, are responsible for the world’s worst industrial disaster which killed thousands and still affects more than 120,000.' He then, via TV cameras, issued a passionate challenge to Lord Coe to drink with him a glass of Bhopal’s contaminated water so he could better understand the toxic legacy of Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. ... 'If he doesn’t dare do this, then he should kick Dow out of the Olympics. They have no place in what has been billed as the greenest and most sustainable Olympics ever; it can’t have Dow Chemicals associated with it' (Source: Laurenson 2012, np link + watch video here).
With only 200 days left for the London Olympics 2012, this unique challenge from the activists is grabbing a lot of eyeballs. With the finger pointing to the Dow Chemicals as the dark hands behind the Bhopal Gas tragedy, the protesting activists stated, 'this water is contaminated with highly toxic chemicals that Dow's subsidiary, Union Carbide, recklessly dumped while their Bhopal factory was in production.' In a press release released by activists, the unique invite was given out by Farah Williams, a survivor of the Bhopal Disaster. She has invited Lord Coe and Mayor Johnson to taste one of the 'finest produce' of Dow. The press release added that Ms Williams is 'issuing a challenge to Mr Coe to share a glass of Bhopal water.' It added, 'She (Williams) will have a specially designed bottle of B'eauPal drinking water (a spoof mineral water product) and can be filmed or photographed in front of the Olympic Countdown clock. The clock will be adorned with a specially designed banner explaining that there are only '200 Days Left to Dump Dow'!' (Source: Anita 2012, np link + watch video here).
Farah Edwards is a survivor of the Bhopal disaster, when Union Carbide, a subsidiary of Dow Chemicals, released a huge dense cloud of lethal gas from their plant in was released on the night of December 2-3, 1984. The government estimates of the immediate deaths were more than 3,700, and since then the deaths have risen to between 8,000 and 25,000 people. Around 100,000 to 200,000 people are thought to have permanent injuries and the number continues to grow as much of the contamination produced by the disaster has not been cleaned up. Farah's aunt died on April 2, 1987 as a result of the disaster, which not only released tons of toxic gas but after the incident Union Carbide also recklessly dumped many other highly toxic chemicals and left the plant to decay, resulting in highly contaminated groundwater across a very large area. Among the contaminants are very high levels of chlorinated compounds. A Swiss lab analysis found carbon tetrachloride at up to 2,400 time the WHO guidelines. Union Carbide has always refused to accept full responsibility for the disaster, and continue to fight the case both in Indian and US courts. The company is owned by Dow Chemicals who are one of the sponsors of the London 2012 Olympics. In front of the Olympic clock in Trafalgar Square, 200 days before the opening, Farah Edwards read the following statement: 'I am here today to remind you that only 200 days are left for London to drop Dow Chemical's sponsorship from what is claimed to be the most sustainable Olympics ever. Thousand of families in Bhopal are being poisoned today by water contaminated by Dow Chemical's business. They have asked me to invite Lord Coe and Mr Johnson to Bhopal to drink just a single sip of the water that they themselves have to consume every day of their lives. By allowing Dow Chemical to be a sponsor Lord Coe is encouraging Dow to continue poisoning the unborn. It is ironic that champion runner Sebastian Coe is helping Dow to run away from its liabilities in Bhopal' ... The Indian government has supported the call for Dow to be dropped as a games sponsor, asking the Indian Olympic Association to take up the matter with both LOCOG and the International Olympic Committee. It remains possible that India will try to persuade others to join it in a boycott of the London games if Dow remains as a sponsor (Source: Marshall 2012, np link).
it is very sad that the governments have been playing politics over this tragedy for 27 years. Right now the [Indian] government is raising voice over the less important issue of the involvement of the Dow Chemicals in the tragedy and is opposing its involvement in London Olympics while the major issues like providing safe drinking water to the localities and the removal of the hazardous wastes are still lying unattended (Source: Sharma, K. 2012, np link).
Having spent six moths living and working with communities in Bhopal at the Sambhavna clinic, funded by British based charity The Bhopal Medical Appeal (BMA), I witnessed first hand the continued devastating impact of the contamination nearly three decades after the closure of the factory. I watched as children played on 'solar evaporation ponds' (toxic dumping grounds); I walked through the former factory site avoiding the blobs of mercury and jars full of chemicals with hazard labels still clearly visible that lie scattered on the ground; I listened as local people told stories of having no choice but to drink, bathe and cook with water that smells odd and that they know makes them sick. Given these experiences of the ongoing situation in Bhopal I find it completely unacceptable that Dow Chemical are pouring millions into sponsorship of the London Olympics rather than supporting those affected by the disaster in Bhopal. ... Outside the Olympic clock in Trafalgar Square, my friend and Bhopal survivor, Farah Edwards Khan, issued a challenge to Lord Coe. She asked that if he is to continue supporting Dow's sponsorship, he should first travel to Bhopal and drink the groundwater, which has for many years been the sole drinking water supply for thousands of local people. Lord Coe has, surprisingly, not yet responded to our invitation (Source: Close 2012, np link).
While Britain's Olympic organisers were counting the last 200 days to the start of the games protesters in London marked the event for a very different reason. They want Dow Chemical dropped as Olympic sponsors because of links to the 1984 Bhopal disaster in India. They're challenging officials to drink water from the scene of the lethal gas leak that killed thousands. ... Farah Khan now lives in London but saw the dead and dying as a ten-year-old in Bhopal. She says it's unthinkable that Dow Chemical's name could appear on the huge decorative wrap that will cover the Olympic Stadium before the games. SOUNDBITE: Farah Khan, Bhopal survivor, saying (English): 'I will be saddened and really hurt and so will all those people who are living in Bhopal to see the huge wrap, to know that the company which poisoned us, their wrap is around the stadium and they are being sponsored in advertising their company and they have actually poisoned and killed and are still killing people. What about the children who haven't been born as yet?' Dow Chemical announced last month it would not have it brand name on the stadium wrap. It also said its logo would not appear on decorative test panels for the venue which its plastics division is making. The U.S. giant is one of 11 worldwide Olympic partners backing the London games (Source: Chapman 2012, np link).
Sebastian Coe, an Olympics gold-medalist and chairman of the Organising Committee for the Games, has been challenged by activists to drink the water in the area. At a public event in London, Farah Williams, a survivor, offered a spoof mineral water bottle of “B’eauPal drinking water.” Protestors in Bhopal recently burnt an effigy of Lord Coe for deciding that DOW would be kept as a sponsor (Source: Sharma, B. 2012, np link).
'The sponsorship of Dow Chemicals is against the spirit of the Olympics charter,' said Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action. 'Olympics charter speaks about prohibition of racism but the company that provides sponsorship for the event practices racism in its business,' she said. While Dow Chemicals has accepted to the legal liabilities of Union Carbide in the US, it refuses to accept liabilities in India, she said. 'Isn’t this racism?' she asked. According to Rachna, Dow has settled liabilities of asbestos-related pollution and health problems in 10 different instances in the United Staters. Meanwhile, tonnes of toxic waste continue to pollute Bhopal’s water and environment (Source: Anon 2011b, np link).
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Watch ‘The Yes Men Fix the World’ movie, here (includes coverage of their Dow Chemical BBC News appearance and its after effects)
Follow the Bhopal Medial Appeal's campaigning on twitter:Tweets by @BhopalMedAppeal
Page created by Jack Parkin as part of a followthethings.com internship, edited by Ian Cook (last updated August 2013). Product photo reproduced, and videos embedded, with kind permission of the Bhopal Medical Appeal.