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Bhopal Gas Tragedy<br />An Abstract:<br />The case gives an overview of the Bhopal gas tragedy. On December 3, 1984, poisonous gas leaked from Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL's) pesticide plant in Bhopal, which killed thousands of people. The case brings out the ethical issues involved in the disaster.It discusses in detail the reasons behind the disaster. The case discusses the role played by Union Carbide Corporation after the disaster, which seemed to be unethical. It also talks about the role of the GOI and Madhya Pradesh government in the disaster. <br />Introduction:<br />"Around 1 a.m., I started coughing. My eyes started burning. As I stepped out, it started burning<br />even more"<br />“I felt being choked. Waking up, I saw a huge black cloud of smoke in my room. Unable to<br />understand, I hugged my two children tightly in my arms and ran outside, leaving all my<br />belongings behind. I tried to save my children but darkness soon enveloped everything. I started<br />vomiting felt giddy and lost consciousness. Next day when I woke up, I was partially blind, my<br />eyes were itching and my husband and son were dead. That frightening night brought a lot of<br />suffering in my life”<br />This is the experience of people who fortunately ( I would like to say ‘unfortunately’, because<br />they could never achieve normal health levels afterward ) survived the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in 2-<br />3 December 1984. The number of such people is more than 520000. The Tragedy killed 4000<br />immediately, 10000 within 72 hours and more than 25000 have died since then. Others who<br />survived had one or other disabilities or diseases. Even the children born after that were<br />affected with varying degree of birth defects. All leaves yellowed and fell off within 72 hours.<br />Not to mention what would have happened to cattle. Fishing was prohibited for months. All<br />these were direct effects of the tragedy. Several others were affected / died due to insufficient<br />medical facilities, underprepared doctors, inadequate medicines, Food and Water shortage etc.<br />The tragedy is considered as one of the worst industrial accident in the human history.<br />The killer gas spread through the city, sending residents scurrying through the dark streets. No alarm ever sounded a warning and no evacuation plan was prepared. When victims arrived at hospitals breathless and blind, doctors did not know how to treat them, as UCIL had not provided emergency information.<br /> It was only when the sun rose the next morning that the magnitude of the devastation was clear. Dead bodies of humans and animals blocked the streets, leaves turned black, the smell of burning chilli peppers lingered in the air.Estimates suggested that as many as 10,000 may have died immediately and 30,000 to 50,000 were too ill to ever return to their jobs.The MIC plant was not designed to handle a runaway reaction. When the uncontrolled reaction started, MIC was flowing through the scrubber (meant to neutralize MIC emissions) at more than 200 times its designed capacity. MIC in the tank was filled to 87% of its capacity while the maximum permissible was 50%.<br />This had serious consequences on safety and maintenance. The size of the work crew for the MIC plant was cut in half from twelve to six workers...<br />All's Not Well with the Bhopal Plant<br />Since 1980, the Bhopal plant had caused death and injury to many. In December 1981, plant operator Mohammed Ashraf was killed by a phosgene gas leak. Two other workers were injured. In May 1982, three American engineers from the chemical products and household plastics division of UCC came to Bhopal...The TragedyOn the night of December 2, 1984, during routine maintenance operations at the MIC plant, at about 9.30 p.m., a large quantity of water entered storage tank no. 610 containing over 40 tons of MIC. This triggered off a reaction, resulting in a tremendous increase of temperature and pressure in the tank...<br />The Settlement<br />Within months after the disaster, the GoI issued an ordinance appointing itself as the sole representative of the victims for any legal dealings with UCC as regards compensation. The ordinance was later replaced by the Bhopal Gas Leak (Processing of Claims) Act, 1985...<br />Health Effects:<br />The initial effects of exposure were coughing, vomiting, severe eye irritation and a<br />feeling of suffocation.<br />The acute symptoms were burning in the respiratory tract and eyes, blepharospasm,<br />breathlessness, stomach pains and vomiting.<br />The causes of deaths were choking, reflexogenic circulatory collapse and pulmonary<br />oedema.<br />Findings during autopsies revealed changes not only in the lungs but also cerebral<br />oedema, tubular necrosis of the kidneys, fatty degeneration of the liver and necrotising<br />enteritis.<br />The stillbirth rate increased by up to 300% and neonatal mortality rate by 200 %.<br />Birth defects among children born to affected women.<br />There were several other effects such as respiratory difficulties, immune and<br />neurological disorders, cardiac failure secondary to lung injury and female reproductive<br />difficulties.<br />The number of people affected is more than 520000. The Tragedy killed 4000 immediately,<br />10000 within 72 hours and more than 25000 have died since then. All leaves yellowed and fell<br />off within 72 hours. Water got contaminated.<br />Next generation Bhopal victims join protest<br /> <br />Seven-month-old Nida with congenital birth defects sits with her mother <br />What caused the disaster? :<br />Factors leading to this huge gas leak include:<br />The use of hazardous chemicals (MIC) instead of less dangerous ones, just for the sake<br />of cost saving.<br />Storing these chemicals in large tanks instead of over 200 steel drums.<br />Possible corroding material in pipelines<br />Poor maintenance after the plant ceased production in the early 1980s<br />Poor training of factory staff.<br />Failure of several safety systems (due to poor maintenance and regulations).<br />Safety systems being switched off to save money - including the MIC tank refrigeration<br />system which alone would have prevented the disaster.<br />Negligence of safety standards by UCIL, even after several warnings by employee<br />unions.<br />The problem was then made worse by the plant's location near a densely populated<br />area, non-existent catastrophe plans and shortcomings in health care and socioeconomic<br />rehabilitation.<br />The Accident:<br />The Bhopal disaster was an industrial catastrophe that took place at a pesticide plant owned<br />and operated by Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India on<br />December 3, 1984. Around 12 AM, the plant released Methyl IsoCyanate (MIC) gas and other<br />toxins, resulting in the exposure of over 520000 people.<br />During the night of December 2–3, 1984, large amounts of water entered tank 610, containing<br />42 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC). The resulting exothermic reaction increased the<br />temperature inside the tank to over 200 °C (392 °F), raising the pressure to a level the tank was<br />not designed to withstand. This forced the emergency venting of pressure from the MIC holding<br />tank, releasing a large volume of toxic gases into the atmosphere. The reaction sped up<br />because of the presence of iron in corroding non-stainless steel pipelines. A mixture of<br />poisonous gases flooded the city of Bhopal, causing great panic as people woke up with a<br />burning sensation in their lungs. Apart from MIC, the gas cloud contained poisonous gases such<br />as phosgene, hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen chloride, oxides of nitrogen,<br />MonoMethyl Amine (MMA) and carbon dioxide, either produced in the storage tank or in the<br />atmosphere. Thousands died immediately from the effects of the gas and many were trampled<br />in the panic.<br />Conclusion:<br />These days we hear a lot about growing economy, spreading businesses, surging profits,<br />expanding industries, shrinking distances, and improving life styles. But what about social<br />responsibilities, humanity, duties towards environment. What about the basic right of every<br />human being, which is to live, whether he is rich or poor. The focus is on earning profits, not<br />earning pleasure or happiness. The aim is to earn status not respect. The whole tragedy<br />happened because of the profit oriented outlook of the company and ignorance of safety<br />standards. The cost saving approach costed thousands of lives. And this outlook has not<br />changed even today rather intensified. Every now and then we hear about violation of human<br />rights, child labor etc. Who is responsible for all this. Certainly we, the society. As Bill Gates<br />mentioned and I quote “The market do not reward saving the lives, and governments do not<br />subsidize it”. Our criterion for measurement of success is money not happiness. Everyone<br />follows the herd mentality even without where they are heading to, where the society is<br />leading to, what are the implications of industrial and business activities. Recently our<br />honorable Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Said and I quote "The enormity of that tragedy<br />(Bhopal Gas Tragedy) of neglect still gnaws at our collective conscience". This Tragedy is still in<br />the memory of public because of its huge toll. But society does not remember those numerous<br />accidents and ill-effects of industrialization that happen daily at small scale. The atmosphere is<br />getting severely polluted; the water of rivers is no more drinkable. Every now or then we hear<br />about a new disease. The government compensation can’t bring life for a dead. Money can’t<br />buy happiness. Think about our responsibilities, our duties towards next generation. It is high<br />time to act for the betterment of planet earth. After all<br />“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”.<br />
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