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The disaster took place on December, 1984, when a toxic cloud of chemicals in one of the Union Carbide Corporation’s plants was introduced into the atmosphere. The plant was situated near an impoverished district of Bhopal, India, where 800,000 people lived. Nearly 4 thousand people were killed immediately and 300,000 were injured (Höpfl & Matilal, 2005).
More than 15,000 people have been affected by the toxic chemicals for more than two decades. There were several investigations and there were two major theories concerning the causes of the disaster. In the end, the company paid almost 500,000 million dollars of compensation.
Legal Aspects of the Incident
Initially, Indian officials carried out their investigation and they found that the disaster took place because of inappropriate safety and maintenance measures in the plant (Höpfl & Matilal, 2005). Several employees as well as top management were imprisoned. However, the second independent investigation was carried out by the American “engineering and consulting firm Arthur D. Little, Inc.” (Höpfl & Matilal, 2005, p. 66).
According to the results of this investigation, the disaster was caused by “deliberate sabotage” (Höpfl & Matilal, 2005, p. 66). After the second investigation the plant’s employees were released. The company also paid a $470 million of compensation. Notably, the Supreme Court of India described the settlement as “just, equitable and reasonable” (Höpfl & Matilal, 2005, p. 67).
Safety and Health Impact
As has been mentioned above, the disaster resulted in numerous victims. 3,800 people died immediately and 300,000 were injured that night. More than 15,000 people have died or have been exposed to “chronic or deliberating illnesses . for which there is no cure” (Höpfl & Matilal, 2005, p. 66).
Some money was paid, but thousands of people are still waiting for their compensation. More so, the aftermaths of the disaster are still unaddressed. For instance, the plant has not been cleaned up yet. People living in the area do not have safe drinking water and are exposed to harmful influence of toxic chemicals. Though, companies have to effect insurance, there are still a lot of violations in the region.
A Project Manager Perspective
One of the most serious mistakes made was neglect of safety issues. The company should also have paid more attention to the equipment used. Another mistake was inadequate use of resources as the capacity of the plant was significant while the demand of the product had been decreasing. Obviously, the staff was not prepared to such kind of emergency and reacted inadequately. Therefore, the company should have paid more attention to the staff training. There always should be a plan of action for a variety of scenarios.
Authors’ Conclusions and Personal Opinion
Höpfl and Matilal (2005) claim that the story of the plant in Bhopal, India, is a multi-faceted issue which must be analyzed. The authors stress that the official theories are based on rather ‘cozy’ assumptions and conclusions. However, the authors add that the analysis should be carried out on the basis of a profound research.
I agree with the author’s conclusions as I also think that it is essential to take into account all angles. I do not agree with the official theory and I think the government should impose strict regulations to control companies in the region. Even though the amount of compensation is insufficient, I am even more concerned with the way the compensations have been distributed. Another investigation (truly independent, i.e. involving a company from a country other than the USA or India) must be carried out.
Höpfl, H. & Matilal, S. (2005). Complexity and catastrophe: Disentangling the complex narratives of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal. Complexity and Catastrophe, 7(3-4), 64-73.