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The Bophal Incident Essay

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Updated: Dec 7th, 2019


The Bophal disaster has always been regarded as the worst industrial accident in the world (Willey and Hendershot, 2006). The disaster occurred on the morning of December 3rd 1984 when a leak of methyl isocyanate gas among other poisonous chemicals and substances (MIC) escaped from one of the storage tanks of Union Carbide of India Limited (UCIL).

UCIL was a pesticide manufacturing plant located at Bophal, Madhya Pradesh in India. It has been alleged that as a result of poor maintenance of plants and equipments within the plant, water entered into storage tank 610 that contained 42 tons of MIC.

The presence of water and MIC resulted to the occurrence of an exothermic reaction that resulted to the increase of temperature and pressure in the storage tank. As a result, the gas escaped from the tank and was blown over Bophal by winds.

The gas leak thus had adverse effects on the local population. It has been estimated that 2,259 individual died instantly as a result of being exposed to the gas while another 3,787 died from respiratory related problems later on (Willey and Hendershot, 2006).

In following weeks, another 3,000 people died as a result of related complication and an additional 8,000 died later on. According to the government affidavit released in 2006, the incident resulted to 558,125 injuries most of which were permanent (Willey and Hendershot, 2006). Most of the people who were affected were children and short people since they inhaled much of the gas as it was denser than air. In addition, those individuals who ran inhaled much of the poisonous gas as compared to those who used vehicles to flee the scene.

Safety and Health Impacts of the Incident

The incident had short-term health effects and long-term health effects. During the early hours of the leak, individuals from the surrounding areas complained of vomiting, coughing, eye irritation and suffocation. Since the gas cloud was denser that air, thus owing to their heights, short people and children were affected the most.

In addition, several people were trampled in a stamped while trying to flee to safety. By morning, a lot of people had passed on. In addition, over 2,000 animals had also died. The gas also had a severe effect on vegetation as trees shed their leaves and dried up.

Approximately 100,000-200,000 people have permanent health disorders as a result of the incident. These include respiratory problem, reproductive difficulties, vision problems, birth abnormality and immunological disorders.

It has been held that the gas leak incident was an act of negligence from UCIL (Chouhan, 2005). Immediately after the incident, legal proceedings against the firm commenced in both the USA and India. This has led to the compensation of the victims of the tragedy. In addition, several members of the management and technical team have been sentenced to jail due to negligence.

Management Response to the Incident

After the incident, the management of UCIL released a statement which stated the companys culture of prioritizing safety. From the statement, the company asserted that the gas leak did not come about as a result of system failure but as an act of sabotage by a defiant employee who poured water into the tank. To emphasize on its commitment on the initiative, the company stated that it has been on the front line to give aid to victims via compensation and provision of professional support.


The Bophal incident is regarded as the worst industrial accident in the world. It left over 25,000 people dead and over 500,000 people injured. All this came about as an act of negligence from UCIL who did not adhere to proper safety and maintenance procedures and requirements that was expected of them.

As a result, I believe that severe actions should be taken against the company and any other company that may be involved in such an act. This will guarantee the safety of individuals within the globe.


Chouhan, T. (2005). Bhopal: The Inside Story. New York: The Apex Press.

Willey, R. and Hendershot, D. (2006). The accident of Bophal: 20 years Later. Web.

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