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Resignation over Olympic sponsorship lauded

NEW DELHI (UCAN): Survivors of the 1984 gas leak from the Union Carbide-owned factory in Bhopal, India, have hailed a decision to resign in protest by watchdog commissioner, Meredith Alexander, from the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012.

The body is assigned to monitor the environmental sustainability levels of this year’s London Olympic Games.

Alexander is objecting to the inclusion of the current owner of the Union Carbide company, Dow Chemicals, being admitted as a sponsor of the event.

Survivors and their supporters met in Bhopal, the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh, on January 27, said they applauded Alexander and placed pink roses before her picture as a sign of their appreciation of her gesture.

Alexander announced her resignation on January 20, which survivors said will help to keep focus on their plight and suffering, which has yet to be resolved, even though  27 years have elapsed since the tragedy occurred.

A spokesperson for Dow said that the company understood when it was buying Union Carbide that it was also buying its toxic legacy, but does not believe that it is responsible for the total clean up of the site.

“We had no association with Bhopal, we bought a company that was an investor, so why would we take action that would imply that we were connected or doing something out of guilt... We recognised when we became a sponsor that organisations and individuals would try and associate Dow with legacy issues. We were prepared for that.

“It has gone on longer than I would have anticipated, but it doesn’t change our resolve,” the China Daily quoted a spokesperson for the company as saying in its February 8 issue.

Survivors in Bhopal also took part in a day-long fast to demand the withdrawal of criminal cases against 2,000 survivors following violence that flared during a protest on the 27th anniversary of the disaster, December 3.

“We hope Meredith’s decision will make the London Olympics Committee dump Dow Chemicals as a sponsor,” said Rashida Bee, president of one of the five survivor organisations that had called for the day-long fast.

She said that by speaking the truth so boldly, Alexander has exposed the lies of Dow Chemical, which the London Olympic Committee and its chairperson, Lord Coe, believe and propagated until recently. Dow’s sponsorship is estimated at GBP7 million ($85.52 million).

Writing in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper on January 26, Alexander said she resigned after an investigation into Dow Chemicals, following complaints about its sponsorship deal.

“I was shocked to see that the result of our investigation was a public statement from the commission that essentially portrays Dow as a responsible company. I was stunned that it publicly repeated Dow’s line that it bears no responsibility for Bhopal,” she wrote.

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