The Bhopal gas tragedy occurred on 3 December 1984 in the city of Bhopal, India. The plant had been designed to produce Carbaryl chemical, which is used as an insecticide. The cause of the tragedy became controversial and it provoked two distinct lines of debate.
One side believed that slack management was the cause of the disaster. Following poor sales at Bhopal in early 1980s, the corporate management responded by retrenching workers, and thus maintenance became poor and low-quality steel parts were favoured to cut on costs (D’Silva, 2006). Due to accumulated decay and corrosion of pipes, water backflow into a tank containing Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) occurred, thus causing a chemical reaction.
The valves that had been designed to contain the resulting pressure had accumulated rust, which catalysed the reaction. The contents of the tank exploded, hence flooding the city of Bhopal with a mixture of hazardous gases. In addition, following earlier leaks and even complaints from local authorities and trade unions, the company’s management failed to take constructive measures to address the issues.
Therefore, corporate negligence, lack proper skills, and poor attitude towards safety were major additions to the cause of the incident (Eckerman, 2005). On the other side, some people blame sabotage from workers as the cause of the accident. This argument holds that the MIC tank was watertight, and thus impossible for water to penetrate without human effort.
Conclusions were made that a malicious worker with the knowledge of the Bhopal plant directed pipe water into the tank. However, earlier leaks, claims of underinvestment in safety measures, and allowing substandard inputs to save on costs provided a clear link to a possible disaster.
If the corporate management had taken safety measures to respond to the sudden addition of water to the MIC tank, the disaster would have minimal impacts. The Bhopal gas disaster had numerous effects on the population of India, both direct and indirect.
The mixture of gases that was released into the environment was inhaled by the nearby residents most of whom succumbed to death due to choking, pulmonary difficulties, and stomach pains (D’Silva, 2006). The long-term effects included stillbirths, respiratory problems, and economic downfall since fish and other agricultural activities were suspended unconditionally due to environmental contamination of soil and groundwater (Eckerman, 2005).
Lack of proper and sufficient safety measures facilitated the impact since the health care system was overstretched. The response measures by both the government and the company indicated lack of proper joint contingency plans to deal with such incidents. Most hospital-based services for gas-related victims were established after the incident.
The Bhopal Company took quick measures by establishing the employees’ relief fund to assist the victims. With the partnership of the government, the company conducted clean-up exercise at the site to control any further damage (D’Silva, 2006). As much as the local government might have overlooked some of the crucial factors adding to the disaster, the main blame goes to the management of the company.
With the knowledge of the kind of chemicals that the company was handling and the previous cases of accidents happening within the company, the management should have had constructive contingency plans to reduce the risks of such a tragedy. In conclusion, improving safety, disaster management programs, and evaluating measures that assist in minimising impacts of such incident can help to reduce or prevent effects of disasters like the Bhopal tragedy.
D’Silva, T. (2006). The black box of Bhopal: A closer look at the world’s deadliest industrial disaster. Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing.
Eckerman, I. (2005). The Bhopal Saga: Causes and Consequences of the World’s Largest Industrial disaster. Hyderabad, India: Universities Press.