Dow Chemical Company is once bitten, twice shy. Close on the heels of its US parent's move to deny liability for damages resulting from the Bhopal gas tragedy at a plant run by Union Carbide (a company it had bought), Dow India has called off a greenfield project to establish a research & development facility in Maharashtra.
The company, which had estimated an investment of Rs 460 crore, has submitted an application to return 100 acres of land at Chakan to state-run Maharashtra Industrial development Corporation (MIDC). The decision was prompted by fierce opposition from local villagers and members of a religious sect, who said "it would lead to another Bhopal". Construction has been halted since September 2008, as the local population argued the project would pollute nearby rivers and damage the environment.
A senior state government minister, who did not wish to be named, said that Dow India's move is significant, as it does not want another controversy. In the case of Bhopal, Dow has consistently argued that it had nothing to do with the killer gas leak of December 3, 1984, at the pesticide plant. The minister said all political parties opposed the proposed R&D facility.
In a statement, Dow India said due to continuing safety and security concerns driven by an "unlawful agitation", the company has decided not to go ahead with the project, despite having a favourable judicial committee report.
The company said it is fully committed to establishing a new world-class global R&D facility in the country. The company is currently evaluating alternative locations, but no decision has been taken at this time. The company noted that it had opened an R&D facility in Pune in 2007 and currently employs more than 150 scientists.
MIDC CEO Kshatrapati Shivaji told Business Standard, "MIDC has filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court in this regard. The high court has slated the next hearing on October 5 on petitions filed in the matter." He said MIDC is yet to arrive at a decision to take over the land and refund Dow's money.