National Pollution Control Day – The Bhopal gas tragedy or Bhopal disaster was an industrial accident that took place at a Union Carbide subsidiary pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. On the night of 2-3 December 1984, a poisonous gas i.e. methyl isocyanide (MIC) was leaked by the plant that affected more than 600,000 people. It is considered to be the worst industrial accident in history.
A mixture of poisonous gases was spread in the city, causing a burning sensation in people’s lungs. Thousands of people died immediately from the effects of the gas and many people were on the verge to die. It is estimated that around 15000-20000 people died due to the Bhopal gas tragedy.
Know what Bhopal gas tragedy is and what are its causes. Also, know how National pollution control day is related to Bhopal gas tragedy.
What were the causes of the Bhopal disaster?
So it all started when the plant in Bhopal started producing ‘Carbonyl’ which was used as an insecticide. In starting, their production was 2,500 tons per year but later the plant started producing 5,000 tons. But that year, Carbonyl did not sell very well. Because of this, the owners of the plant started to cut the costs including employee’ fees, maintenance, and using lower-grade steel. When the disaster happened, there was no production at the plant.
It happened because water entered the tank containing Methyl isocyanide. This caused a chemical reaction which resulted in the buildup of Carbon dioxide. As a result, large amounts of toxic gases were released into the whole city of Bhopal.
There are various theories related to this tragedy. Some people asked how water could enter the tank. Some claim that because of bad maintenance the gas started leaking.
On National Pollution Control Day, let’s discuss some factors reportedly leading to the Bhopal gas tragedy:
- One of the most important reasons for the Bhopal gas tragedy is using hazardous chemicals (MIC) instead of less dangerous ones.
- Storing the chemicals in large tanks instead of 200 steel drums.
- Poor maintenance after there was no production at the plant.
- Failure of several safety systems due to poor maintenance.
- Safety systems shut down to save money including the MIC tank refrigeration system which could prevent the disaster.
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Case and punishment
At the time of the disaster, Civil and criminal cases were filed in the District Court of Bhopal, India, involving UCC and Warren Anderson, UCC CEO. In June 2010, seven former employees were sentenced to a fine of about $2,000 each and two years of imprisonment. The eighth former employee was also convicted, but he died before the judgment was passed.
Bhopal was struck by two tragedies: the one that happened on that day, and the other that unfolded in the years that followed.
Within a few weeks of the accident, many people suffered from ailments like tuberculosis and anemia. And till date, nobody knows what actually happened, how to treat patients exposed to the gas, and for how long the people of Bhopal have to suffer all this. The disaster even affected mothers’ wombs, not even one child was born healthy.
Supreme Court of India reached a settlement with Union Carbide in 1998. The company had to pay US$ 470 million to the Indian state. The actual amount paid by Union Carbide and how much reached the victims is not easily available in the public domain.
The area around the plant is reportedly still contaminated with mercury and other carcinogenic substances.
Know how National pollution control day is related to Bhopal gas tragedy.
National Pollution Control Day – Every year, 2 December is celebrated as National Pollution Control Day. The day remembers and honors the people who lost their lives and suffered in the Bhopal Gas tragedy in 1984. The day spreads awareness among people regarding how to fight and prevent pollution.