India was still asleep when one of the largest industrial disasters struck in the form of a gas leak. Bhopal Gas Tragedy is still considered one of the worst industrial disasters. People were running out on the streets, vomiting, and dying. Find more interesting topics from History
What Was Bhopal Gas Tragedy?
Bhopal Gas Tragedy was an accident involving gas leakage at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India on the night of 2–3 December 1984. Chemical mainly methyl isocyanate (MIC) from Union Carbide India Ltd’s (UCIL) pesticide factory converted Bhopal ‘s city into a gigantic gas chamber. Approximately 45 tons of hazardous gas of methyl isocyanate escaped from a pesticide plant owned by the Indian subsidiary of the American firm Union Carbide. The gas spread through the heavily populated neighborhoods surrounding the factory, immediately killing thousands of people and causing panic as tens of thousands of others tried to escape Bhopal.
Why Bhopal Gas Tragedy?
- The methyl isocyanate production was in progress months before the tragedy and the tanks were being filled.
- No more than 50% of a tank’s capacity could not be filled and inert nitrogen gas was used to pressurize the tank.
- The pressure cycle allowed the pumping of liquid methyl isocyanate from each tank.
- However, one of the tanks (E610) was unable to withstand nitrogen gas pressure, which prevented the pumping of the liquid MIC.
- According to the regulations, no more than 30 tonnes of liquid MIC should be loaded with each tank.
- Yet that tank had 42 tons of MIC.
- This failure forced UCIL to stop the production of MIC in Bhopal and part of the plant was shut down for maintenance.
- On the 1st of December, an attempt was made to return the defective tank functional.
- At that time, most of the protection mechanisms associated with MIC were not working.
- Water entered the malfunctioning tank, which led to a fluid chemical reaction, according to reports by December 2nd evening.
Impact Of Bhopal Gas Tragedy
The impact of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy was severe. Many people died instantaneously and it has very long term health effects on peoples.
- Nearly 16000 people died due to the gas leak.
- 8000 people died within two weeks.
- And more 8000 people died due to gas related diseases.
- The leakage caused 558,125 injuries, including 38,478 partial temporary injuries
- About 3,900 seriously and permanently disabling injuries.
- The gas leak also affects trees and wildlife. Within a few days, trees became barren in the surrounding field.
- Due to large number of deaths, there was a shortage of cremation grounds.
- The stillbirth rate increased by up to 300%.
Long term health impacts due to the tragedy
- Conjunctivitis, corneal scars, complexity of the cornea, early cataracts in eyes.
- Obstructive and restrictive diseases, lung fibrosis, TB worsening and chronic bronchitis
- Memory impairment, bad motor skills, numbness
- PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Impact of Bhopal Gas Tragedy In Present Day
More than 400 tons of toxic waste is already present on the site in the early 21st century. Neither the Dow Chemical Company, which purchased the Union Carbide Corporation in 2001, nor the Indian Government had adequately cleaned the site amid ongoing protests and litigation attempts. Soil and water contamination in the region was blamed for chronic health conditions and high birth defects in the population of the city.