Remember Bhopal: Communities on the Industrial Fence Line Speak Out against Industrial Pollution

Richards Bay, 03 December 2004 - groundWork and Vuka Enviro Dot Com invite you to a community “Speak Out” against industrial pollution at the Veldenvlei Community Hall in Richards Bay on Saturday 4 December 2004. The “Speak Out” serves to commemorate the 20-year anniversary of the Bhopal disaster that has left thousands of people dead and tens of thousands injured. It also serves to highlight that twenty years since the world’s worst-ever industrial disaster, not enough is being done to prevent any more Bhopals from occurring. Corporations are still putting profits before peoples’ lives.

Twenty years ago on 3 December 1984, thousands of people in Bhopal, India, were gassed to death after a catastrophic chemical leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant. More than 150,000 people were impacted upon of whom 20,000 have since died of their injuries. None of the six safety systems at the plant were functional, and Union Carbide’s own documents prove the company cut corners on safety and maintenance in order to save money. Today, twenty years after the Bhopal disaster, those who survived the gas remain sick, and the chemicals that Union Carbide left behind in Bhopal have poisoned the water supply and contributed to an epidemic of cancers, birth defects, and other afflictions.

In our own backyard we find that the South African government has not done enough to hold corporations accountable for their actions. Foskor has been responsible for gassing the people in Richards Bay, which resulted in two people dying. Sasol has been linked to various industrial incidents, which have gassed hundreds of children in south Durban and killed numerous workers over the last few years. The most notorious incident being that of the 1st September 2004, when an incident at the Sasol plant in Secunda resulted in ten deaths. The Minister of Labour was quick to respond stating “if Sasol continues to kill people, if people continue to die in their workplace, whether it means there is no fuel in the country, I as Membathisi Shephard Mdladlana will not allow any company to kill people.” Since then another three Sasol workers have died and the Minister has taken no action.

Edmund Skosana of Vuka Environmental Dot Com states that:

“Communities are tired of government’s words with no action. The evidence has shown that the chemical hotspots in South Africa are a disaster waiting to happen. If government does not act soon it will become impossible to prevent another Bhopal from occurring within our midst, and Richards Bay has shown it has the potential to be another Bhopal.”

For more information please contact: Ardiel Soeker (082 940 8669) or Edmund Skosana (082 357 7870) or Bobby Peek 082 464 1 383)