Bhopal Gas Tragedy
The catastrophe caused by man through his/her error, intention, negligence is termed as the Man-made Disaster. It includes criminal acts, arson, terrorism, wars (from cyber to nuclear) and threats. There are many incidents of the man-made disaster which have killed thousands and lakhs of people, one such is Bhopal gas tragedy. An incident that took place after continuous negligence and ignorance to safety, proper checking and maintenance of industrial equipment’s. Before going deeper let’s have some data. It was estimated that due to MIC (Methyl Isocyanate) and other gases more than 15000 causalities with half a million citizens physically impaired or affected in various degrees. Livestock was killed, injured and infected.
UCIL factory was built to produce carbaryl pesticide called Sevin. It was produced using intermediate compound methyl isocyanate which was formed by the reaction of methylamine and phosgene which again are too deadly compounds. Working with this compound is not child’s play but requires skilled and focused professionals.
So, we will continue pointing out each mistake of officials and employees of UCIL (Union Carbide India limited). Earlier pollution was reported but in 1981, phosgene was splashed on a worker while maintenance job, in a panic he removed his protective mask, and was exposed directly to phosgene, leading to death within three days. Then in 1982 in January 24 worker exposed to phosgene leak. In February 18 worker was affected by MIC leak. In August and October, two officials came into contact of MIC and had severe chemical burns. And many other leaks were reported.UCC safety regulation had clear instruction, that no storage tanks should be filled not more than 50% having MIC. Tanks were pressurized by nitrogen for pumping operation. One of the storage tanks of liquid MIC E610 became ineffective in late October 1984. On the day of leakage, the tank contained 42 ton of MIC. Many safety systems were malfunctioning like safety valves, vent gas scrubbers, boiler, pressure control system etc. Many others were under maintenance like flare tower.
The time of nightmare, it was believed that water entered the tank which initiated a continuous exothermic reaction. Nearly at 10:30, the pressure in tank was 2psi which rose to 10psi within half an hour, two employees observed it but ignored it as instrument malfunction. Within in another fifteen minutes a leak was detected which was reported to supervisor. It was decided to report the leak issue after 12:15 a.m. tea time, and in the intervening time, employees were told to look for further leaks. After tea break E610 reached critical state with temperature 25C and indicated pressure 40psi. one of the employees detected a crack the pressure continued to rise 55psi, already MIC started leaking. Within an hour 30 tons MIC escaped from and within next hour extra 10 tons was in the atmosphere of the surrounding. After many malfunctioning of employees’ brain other malfunctioned opportunity came, they just rang factory siren, not the public siren. Bhopal’s SP was informed. But lack of information to Authorities by UCIL made them were confused but was awake. Public Siren rang after half an hour. The hospital was facing a patient with exposure to some unheard material.
People were combatting with effects of direct exposed MIC, they were coughing, facing eye irritation, suffocation, burns in the lung, severe aching and vomiting. Thousands lost life due to this uncertain nightmare which they didn’t think would ever happen.
What happened further was, UCC was closed. CSIR and CBI investigated what has occurred. Listening about condition Warren Anderson(CEO of UCC) immediately travelled to India. But he was house arrested and was asked to leave the country within 24 hours. Within a few days more than 2lakh people were treated, many cows, goats, buffalos and other animals were buried. Fishing was prohibited. People feared to eat polluted food leading to local food scarcity.
Legal proceedings started in the same month of the incident. A few days later, the first petition for gas leaks was filed in US federal courts on behalf of the victims. The Government of India passed the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster Act in March 1985, which enabled the Government of India to act as a legal representative for the victims of the disaster.
In June 1985, appears in individual petitions and is listed before Justice John Keenan of the Southern District Court of New York. In May 1986, Justice Keenan dismissed the petition and ordered Union Carbide to be brought under the jurisdiction of Indian courts. March 1989: After nearly three-year Indian Supreme court (SC) settled the compensation at 470 million USD after hearing appeals against this settlement. March 1991: The Supreme Court of India, which refused to reopen the issue of compensation, heard a review petition on the 1989 settlement November 2001: US Federal Court of Appeals asks to put effort on cases to Justice Keenan for recovering environmental damage caused by Bhopal gas Disaster. Also, orders to hear claims for the environment against William Anderson (Former CEO of UCC). April 2007: A bench of the Supreme Court of India once again dismisses an appeal to reopen the debate on the adequacy of the settlement fund.
Seven former employees of UCIL, all Indian nationals and many contemporary to the period of Bhopal gas tragedy, were sentenced to causing death by carelessness on June 2010.
Impacts till date
It was observed that the region exposed to a gas leak have increased mortality rate, migration, and long-term diseases. Long-term effects are chronic conjunctivitis, cataract at earlier age, tuberculosis bronchitis impairment in motor skills, natal deaths, retard growth of children.Environment impacts are as follows: Toxic water, Soil toxicity, Toxic waste around the factory.
Many rehabilitation funds were utilized for different activities. Till 31.3.2003, Rs 22.77 crore was spent under the Action Plan, through a medical rehabilitation program. This amount has been mainly expended on building medical facilities and providing free medicines and free medical treatment to the gas victims.
Widows were given a pension, the school were constructed and repaired, per head free milk was provided to children, orphans were maintained. Environmental rehabilitation was taken through the planting of trees development children’s park, construction of sewage/drainage, improvement of water supply schemes development of waste disposal, the supply of 9,000 smokeless stoves.
The Bhopal gas tragedy was a phenomenon whose impact can still be seen in many new-borns who were born with abnormalities and give direction to all industries set up near the residential area to take all precautions and not play with precious people. The life of the people was important.
Current Situation and Official Data -http://www.bgtrrdmp.mp.gov.in/
Reports and Factsheet - https://www.cseindia.org/topics/bhopal:-way-ahead
The Bhopal legacy - Greenpeace - http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/the-bhopal-legacy.pdf
Chronology of Leaks - https://www.umass.edu/sts/pdfs/Bhopal_AChrono.pdf