groundWork (Friends of the Earth South Africa)

Midnight candlelit vigil to be held at Indian Consulate

Durban, South Africa, 2nd December 2014 – At two minutes past midnight tomorrow, 30 years would have passed since the tragic disaster at the Dow Chemical plant in Bhopal, India where a gas leak resulted in 7 000 deaths immediately following the incident, 25 000 more dead in the following years and 150 000 are today severely disabled by the long term effects of the gas and/or by the drinking water contaminated with toxic waste that leached from the factory site [1].

Formerly known as Union Carbide, the American-based Dow Chemicals plant in Bhopal, India leaked about 30 tons of deadly gases such as methyl isocynate in the early hours of 3rd December 1984, killing thousands as they slept. This, as a result of all six safety systems being dysfunctional, which the company itself admitted to not being proven and tested technology in the first place.

Five years later, the company and the Indian government came to a settlement, which compensated survivors suffering from chronic diseases and/or debilitating physical injuries a once off payment of US $500. The anniversary comes just months after the company’s CEO, Warren Anderson, died at the age of 92 in September.

Bobby Peek, Director of environmental justice organisation groundWork [2] states:

“Despite three decades having gone by, the Indian government has done little if nothing at all to put those responsible in front of the judicial system. Communities in Bhopal continue to drink water and live on land contaminated by heavy metals, still today creating a population burdened by a host of chronic medical conditions and children born with developmental disabilities and congenital malformations.”

Local Durban organisations and community members from south Durban and surrounds will be gathering before midnight tonight outside the Indian Consulate to hold a peaceful candlelit vigil. At two minutes past midnight a siren will go off in commemoration of those whose lives were lost and for those who continue to live with injury and disease as a result of this continued environmental injustice. It is also to stand in solidarity with those who continue relentlessly to challenge both the company and the government.

Organisations from South Africa and abroad have signed a letter [4] addressed to the Consul General which will be emailed today. This is a letter of demands to the Indian government to take a meaningful stand against Dow Chemicals.

Details of the vigil:
Date: Tuesday, 2nd December 2014
Venue: Indian Consulate, 1 Kingsmead Boulevard (2nd Floor), Kingsmead Office Park
Time: 23:30 – 00:30

Upon receiving the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2004, Bhopal gas survivor, Rashida Bi, said:

"We are not expendable. We are not flowers offered at the altar of profit and power. We are dancing flames committed to conquering darkness and to challenging those who threaten the planet and the magic and mystery of life."

Two Goldman Prize recipients will be at the vigil, Bobby Peek (1998) and Desmond D’Sa (2014) from the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance [3].

The tragedy of 3rd December 1984 is widely acknowledged as the world’s worst industrial disaster.



Megan Lewis
Media and Communications Officer
Tel (w): +27 (0) 33 342 5662
Tel (m): +27 (0) 83 450 5541

Bobby Peek
Tel (w): +27 (0) 33 342 5662
Tel (m): +27 (0) 82 464 1383

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance:
Desmond D’Sa
Tel (w): +27 (0) 31 461 1991
Tel (m) +27 (0) 83 982 6939


[1] For more information visit
[2] groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa and increasingly in Southern Africa on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Coal, Climate Justice and Energy, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International
[3] The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) is an alliance of 16 organizations concerned with environmental justice and human rights, particularly relating to industrial pollution in south Durban, an area which is home to more than 285 000 people living in settled communities
[4] Read the letter here and the list of global demands here.