The Bhopal Gas tragedy is the worst air pollution episode ever witnessed in India. It happened in Bhopal on December 3, 1984.
The Union Carbide factory is located in Bhopal, a town in Madhya Pradesh. The fateful incident happened due to the leakage of lethal gas called methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas from three storage tanks of Union Carbide factory, a Multinational Corporation. MIC is an intermediate used in the manufacture of pesticides. Methyl isocyanate (MIC) is produced by combination of phosgene, a deadly poisonous gas used in the First World War with methyl amine. In the accident nearly 36 tones of poisonous MIC gas released into the air of Bhopal. MIC gas causes burning sensation in the eyes, removes oxygen from the lungs resulting in breathing trouble and chest tightness, and also cyanide generation in the body, which ultimately turn fatal and leads to death.
Bhopal gas tragedy caused the single biggest air pollution tragedy which, according to official sources, claimed 2500 lives, whereas non-governmental sources put the figure much higher. According to the figure released by the government around 17,000 people have been rendered permanent disabled and another 30,000 partially handicapped. Those who have suffered mini disability number about 1,50,000.
The Bhopal gas tragedy polluted drinking water, soils, tank and pond water and adversely affected fetus, newly born babies, pregnant woman, young and old people alike. It killed thousands of animals and innumerable micro-organisms.
The tragedy is a burning example of one of the deadliest disaster caused by human negligence in the maintenance of deadly gas such as MIC gas. Several circumstantial evidence points to the total breakdown of the essential safety provisions within the plant negligence of the authorities.
Those relevant facts are furnished below:
1. The plant has two main safety devices:
- Scrubber, which neutralize the gas with caustic soda and
- Flare tower, where the gas can be burnt off.
Both the safety devices failed to operate on that particular day.
2. The refrigeration units for the storage tanks containing MIC gas were out of order for several months.
3. The water jet had failed to reach at the top of the 120 ft stack from which MIC gas was gushing out.
4. The poisonous gas was stored in the tanks for more than two months, violating the safety rules.
5. The factory turned on the public siren about an hour after the gas started releasing into the atmosphere.
6. The plant was located in densely populated area of old Bhopal.