5.9 Liability for the contamination at Bhopal
The 1989 settlement did not cover liability for the consequences of the contamination of the site, and the issue of who should take responsibility for the costs of decontaminating the Bhopal site is still unresolved. UCC sold its stake in UCIL to Mcleod Russel India Ltd in 1994 and so no longer has assets in India which could be utilised to pay for the clean-up of the site. Dow Chemical denies liability, arguing that it is now the responsibility of the Madhya Pradesh government. A Greenpeace report of 2002, Technical Guidelines for Cleanup at the UCIL site in Bhopal, Madya Pradesh, India, argued that Dow should incur liability under US legislation. The US Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly referred to as ‘Superfund’, provides that responsibility for cleaning up hazardous material sites lies with the polluters of the site. Greenpeace argues that these principles should extend to the international operations of multinationals, and so Dow should be liable as parent company of UCC. This claim has subsequently been refuted by Dow. The Indian authorities seem reluctant to take action. Any suggestion that the assets of Dow Chemical in India be sequestrated (taken to settle the claim) by the Indian authorities has been resisted by Dow and also by the Indian government, which fears that such an action might deter foreign investment in India in the future.
So far the environmental and human rights claims in the US courts for personal injuries in relation to exposure to contaminated water and remediation of the Bhopal plant have failed.