If We Fail Our Environment, We Fail to Protect Our Human Rights

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“If we fail our environment, we fail to protect our human rights.” -Ban Ki-moon

Human rights, dignity, livelihood, health and wellbeing are directly correlated with the health of the environment. We have seen time and time again that corporate actions often have devastating effects on the human rights of individuals around the world. From the Bhopal chemical disaster to the oil spills in the Niger Delta, failures to protect our environment impact the lives of millions and have ongoing and devastating consequences for future generations.

Years after the Union Carbide factory disaster in Bhopal a new generation is growing up sick, disabled and struggling for justice. Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

Years after the Union Carbide factory disaster in Bhopal a new generation is growing up sick, disabled and struggling for justice. Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

There is an undeniable tie between respect for human rights and environmental rights. Here’s why:

  1. The 1984 gas leak at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India was one of the world’s deadliest industrial disaster. The gas leak caused more than 7,000 immediate deaths and the ongoing contamination of soil and water killed 25,000 people. The survivors and their children, a second generation of survivors, live with debilitating health issues including cancer and birth defects. The site where the plant once was has not been cleaned up. Toxic wastes continue to pollute the environment and no one has been held accountable. Survivors have been denied adequate compensation, medical care and justice.
  2. Every year there are hundreds of oil spills in the Niger Delta, caused by old and poorly maintained pipelines or criminal activity such as oil theft. The oil giant Shell has inadequately handled the pollution clean-up from its pipelines and wells, leaving thousands of women, men and children exposed to contaminated land, water and air, in some cases for years or even decades. As long as oil companies fail to live up to their commitments, the Niger Delta will remain a cautionary tale of communities promised prosperity, but left with blighted, devastated lands.

MDG oil spill in Niger delta

Companies who undermine environmental rights, evade justice and deny human rights to communities around the world must be held accountable.

Governments have failed when it comes to ensuring justice for those impacted by environmental disasters and climate change. This Earth day we need to make a commitment to continue to raise our voices until we see justice and until we see change!

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