LONDON — A 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 — scared Dow Chemical’s London management team into hiding today.
Twenty Bhopal activists, including Sathyu Sarangi of the Sambhavna Clinic in Bhopal, showed up at Dow headquarters near London to find that the entire building had been vacated. 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 www.bhopal.org.
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.
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 (making-of video here), highlights Dow’s continued refusal to take responsibility for the disaster. (Five years ago, the Yes Men impersonated Dow Chemical live on BBC World Television and announced that after 20 years, the company was finally going to clean up its mess in Bhopal. That hoax, which temporarily knocked two billion dollars off Dow’s share price, is featured in the Yes Men’s new movie, The Yes Men Fix The World, which opens in UK cinemas on August 11.)