(WOMENSENEWS)–The Dow Chemical Company has filed a lawsuit against a group of female survivors of a toxic spill who demonstrated against the company in Bhopal, India last month.

The lawsuit asks for $10,000 in damages from protesters who participated in the peaceful two-hour protest, claiming the women caused Dow employees “loss of work.” The lawsuit also asks that activists be restrained from holding future demonstrations within 100 meters of the Dow offices.

The Dow Chemical Company did not return calls seeking comment on the lawsuit, filed two weeks ago. The Dec. 3 protest was held on the 18th anniversary of the lethal gas spill at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal that killed thousands of people and harmed hundreds of thousands.

Union Carbide became a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company in February 2001.

About 200 women from the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationary Karmachari Sangh, a trade union comprised of women gas spill survivors, and the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, a coalition lobbying for survivors’ rights, gathered contaminated water and soil samples from the abandoned Union Carbide plant in Bhopal. They carried them to Dow’s headquarters in Mumbai, India, and handed them to company representatives, along with traditional straw brooms.

They then asked the company to clean up the toxic pollution that still covers the area and causes health and environmental problems. Continued presence of toxic chemicals at the site and in the groundwater could cause tainted breast milk, miscarriages and birth defects, along with cancer and other health disorders.

“By filing this lawsuit, Dow is trying to establish a precedent, to say ‘you can’t even talk about this,'” said Casey Harrell, a Greenpeace Bhopal specialist. “These people have nothing but their voices.”

Representatives of Greenpeace International were present at the protest and are also named in the lawsuit.

Union Carbide was held liable in 1989 for the spill and paid $470 million in direct compensation for the victims and financed a hospital in Bhopal. Environmental activists have criticized the settlement, saying it provided only about $300 to $500 for each victim.

At the protest, Anand Vohra, finance director at Dow Chemicals, told the activists that he would personally recommend to “higher authorities,” that action be take to alleviate the suffering of the gas-affected people, according to Bhopal.net.

For more information:


Statement of The Dow Chemical Company Regarding the Bhopal Tragedy: