Tragedy Strikes Bhopal
Bhopal, India 3 December 1984. Shortly after midnight, In the city of Bhopal, a poisonous gas called methyl isocyanate(MIC) leaked from the pesticide plant of Union Carbide India Limited 3,800 people died that night. Another 10,000 died over the next three days, and several hundred thousand more fell ill over the following years, Many of those survived suffered permanent disabilities. This is regarding as the world’s worst industrial disaster ever.
How Did This Happen?
Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) was a large multinational company, which is a company that operates in different nations. It was a manufacturing company, Making different products such as Eve-ready batteries, And the pesticide carbaryl, sold as Servin.
In 1969, UCIL set up a factory to make carbaryl in Bhopal, It used MIC to make the pesticide . It was possible to make carbaryl using less toxic substance . But MIC was cheaper, and so UCIL preferred it. It imported MIC from America until 1979, when it began making it in Bhopal.
The night of the leak, Water entered a tank containing MIC. When the water and MIC mixed, a chemical reaction began. This produced heat, and raised the pressure in the tank. The safety valve burst, and the concrete cover around the tank broke, 30 tonnes of MIC escaped into the atmosphere. The gas sank to the ground, And spread quickly over a large area.
What were the Consequences?
Out of the 800,000 people living in Bhopal 300,000 People were affected 2000 animal died, and leaves fell off the trees. At the railway station, Clerks selling tickets died over their ticket boxes. In the railway yard, signalmen and stationmasters died at their posts, with the signal levers still in their hands. The signals did not turn green, and engine drivers died in their engines.
Hospitals and Doctors were unprepared for the thousands of injured that came to them . They did not know how to treat those who had breathed in MIC, so they prescribed eye drops and cough syrups. The dead had to be cremated or buried. Dead animals had to be disposed off Bhopal turned into a nightmare land.
The cause of this tragedy are not clear. Union Carbide maintained that water could not have entered the MIC tank on its own, and that this was the work of an angry worker. It was never proved. The most likely cause are negligence by UCC and UCIL, and ill- designed safety systems. Some of the safety equipment was not working. The alarm was sounded too late, an hour after the leak.
Referred to a the “Hiroshima of industrial disasters”, The Bhopal gas tragedy led to awareness of the need to implement safety measures in chemical factories. In 1989, The supreme Court of India ordered Union Carbide Corporation to pay $470 million as compensation to the victims of the leak.
Today, Twenty Five years later, the Bhopal plant of UCIL lies abandoned. All compensation claims have been provided for the victims, Many of whom still continue to suffer the effects of the poisonous gas on their lungs, eyes and nervous systems. But the suffering of the people can never be forgotten.