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Dow Shelves India R&D Center

Bhopal Legacy: As protests persist, company gives up plans to build major facility

by Jean-François Tremblay
September 14, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 38

In the face of opposition, Dow Chemical will abandon plans to build a $100 million R&D center in Pune, India, on land it obtained three years ago. The firm says it remains determined to build an R&D center somewhere in India.

Three years ago, Dow signed a memorandum of understanding with the government of Maharashtra, where Pune is located, and was granted 100 acres of land. The company said it would build a "world-class" R&D facility large enough to accommodate 500 scientists. Pune is located about two hours by car from Mumbai (C&EN, Nov. 5, 2007, page. 11).

But Dow's ambitions ran into protests from members of the local Varkari sect, who contend the project would pollute the area. Protests in Pune were encouraged by activists from Bhopal who have long demanded that Dow pay additional compensation for a 1984 industrial accident at a Union Carbide facility that killed thousands of people. Dow acquired Union Carbide in 2001.

Two years ago, the government of Maharashtra ordered Dow to stop construction at the site while additional environmental audits were conducted (C&EN, Oct. 6, 2008, page 20).  The company subsequently cleared the legal hurdles standing in its path but has concluded that persistent local opposition to the project makes the location "untenable."  

Since 2007, Dow has been running a temporary facility for 150 scientists in Pune. The company says it will find a way to continue expanding its R&D activities in India and is in the process of selecting alternative locations.


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