Bhopal Gas Tragedy (05.12.09)

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    BYANUP SHARMA

    ISBD

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    25 years have passed since the night of terrorand death in Bhopal, which saw a cloud ofdeadly gases exploded out of a faulty tank ina Pesticide Factory and silently spread into

    the homes of sleeping people.

    Records show that about 20,000 people died

    and about 5.7 lakh suffered bodily damage.

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    41 Tonn of Methyl Iso Cyanate (MIC) and its

    reaction products released.

    Release occurred when water was mixed witMIC.

    Water was being used in routine line cleaning

    4 systems designed to prevent or mitigate the

    accident either failed or were turned off early.

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    Severe chest congestion (100 % cases) Foreign body sensation in the eyes Diminished and Blurred vision Whiteness in the eyes

    Frothing at the mouth

    Headache and giddiness

    Sore throat

    Pain and burning sensation in the chest Vomiting Abdominal cramps

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    85.4% Moderate to severe illness

    94.6% Respiratory problems

    90.7% Eye problem

    53% Gastronomical Problems

    43.6% Neuromuscular Problems

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    Plant was over designed by 150%, at theinstances of UC Head Quarters and againstthe advice of UC Personnel in Bhopal.

    Computerized early warning system and Data

    logger were not incorporated into the design. Process design allowed for a long term

    storage of large quantities of MIC in tanks.

    Water sprays were designed to reach only 12-

    15 meters although the gases from the flarewere released at 30 meters allowing wateringress into storage tank.

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    In February 1989, Supreme Court announcedsettlement for Bhopal Victims under whichUCI agreed to pay Rs 713 Crorescompensation, while the government agreed

    to drop all criminal cases against it. In 1991 the court agreed to reopen the

    criminal case due to intense public shock andanger .

    2 installments of compensation of upto Rs25000 have been given till now to thevictims, one in 1994 and next in 2004.

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    It did not take any responsibility for thetragedy, as well as cleaning up the site andground water, medical monitoring, economiccompensation and rehabilitation for the

    victims.

    It put the entire responsibility on the

    Government and freed itself from taking anylegal obligation saying that they wanted toprotect their Shareholders interest.

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    Resolving outstanding cases would lead tolegal risks which showed there runaway

    motive. At the 2003 annual shareholder meeting

    William S Stavropoulos, CEO of Dow Chemicals,stated that the case of disaster had beenresolved in court and thus they are not liablefor it any further.

    No safety measures used.

    No humanitarian feeling. The company had a long history of criminal

    behavior.

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    It had been involved in precipitating two ofthe greatest industrial disasters of the 20thcentury. Gauley Bridge tunneling project inWest Virginia in the 1920s caused injury to

    hundreds from silicosis. According to theUS Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)UCC was among the Top 4 companies fortoxic waste dumps in the US. It was a

    supplier of napalm and other chemicalwarfare agents to the US war in Vietnam.

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    The company should have been moreresponsive towards corporate accountability,human rights and the environment.

    The Government should also have had a clearcut policy regarding a proactive DisasterManagement Plan.

    The company being financially sound should

    have been more responsible towards socio-economic and environmental issues.

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