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Bhopal gas tragedy

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  • 1. Human RightsCase Study :Union Carbide

2. Bhopal Gas TragedyAmongst the worst Industrial Disasters of its time. Occurrence: 3rd December 1984. Place of occurrence: Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. Company: Union Carbide Corporation. Chemical: Methyl Isocyanate (45 tons) What happened: 45 tons of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) gas escaped from two underground storage tanks at a Union Carbide pesticide plant. 3. Government and Peoples Support For Plant : The country needed pesticides to protect her agricultural production . MIC is used to produce pesticides that control insects which would in turn, help increaseproduction of food as a part of Indias GREEN REVOLUTION. Initially, India imported the MIC from the United States. In an attempt to achieve industrial self-sufficiency, India invited Union Carbide to set upa plant in the state of Madhya Pradesh to produce methyl isocyanate. To the people of the city of Bhopal, Union Carbide was a highly respected , technicallyadvanced Western company. This coupled with political power and scientific expertise worked together to change thepeoples perception of what was dangerous and more importantly what was safe. 4. Background1970sIndian Government invites UCC to set up Sevin plant- Plant built in Bhopal at central location and transport infrastructure- Indian Government has 22% stake in UCIL (UCCs India Subsidary)- Plant initially approved for formulation only (built in area zoned forlight industrial use)Late 1970s and early 1980sCompetition forces backward integration. MMIC manufactured atBhopal site.- Drought causes drop in market demand for Sevin safety andmaintenance lax- 6 minor accidents involving MIC between 1981 and 1984- Plant conformed to much laxer standards than sister plant US 5. What is Methyl Isocyanate? Clear, colorless, sharp smelling liquid Highly flammable Extremely toxic Volatile reaction with water in about 10 minutes Union Carbide used MIC to produce a insecticide called Carbaryl. MIC reacts with 1-naphthol in a hydrolysis process to produceCarbaryl. 6. Effects on Human Health Respiratory Disorders Irritation to the lungs, causing coughing and/orshortness of breathing. Higher exposure caused build up of fluids (pulmonaryedema). Caused Asthama. Cancer Hazard Caused mutation (genetic changes). It caused cancer. Reproductive Hazard Association between exposure to Methyl Isocyanateand miscarriages. It may damage the growing fetus.May also affect fertility inmen and women. Traces of many toxins were found in the Brest Milk of mothers and wereinturn transmitted to the recepient babies. 40, 000 kg was released in Bhopal on 3rd December 1984 7. The Disaster (3rd Dec 1984)6 safety systemsfailed! 8. Equipment and Safety Regulations The MIC tank alarms had not worked for four years.. There was only one manual back-up system, compared to a four-stage systemused in the US. The flare tower and the vent gas scrubber had been out of service for fivemonths before the disaster. To reduce energy costs, the refrigeration system was idle. The MIC was keptat 20 degrees Celsius, not the 4.5 degrees advised by the manual. The steam boiler, intended to clean the pipes, was out of action for unknownreasons. 9. Repercussions of the disaster? Among the 500,000 people exposedto the gas: 20,000 have died till date 120,000 continue to suffer (15-20 die each month) Out of every 3 children born afterthe Bhopal disaster, only 1 survived. 7000 animals killed and 7000 injured 10. The Bhopal Disaster 11. AftermathMedical staff was unprepared for the thousands of casualties.Doctors and hospitals were not informed of proper treatment methos forMIC gas inhalation. They were told to simply give cough medicine andeye drops to their patients.The gases immediately caused visible damage to the trees. Within a fewdays, all the leaves fell off.2,000 bloated animal carcass had to be disposed of."Operation Faith": On December 16, the tanks 611 and 619 wereemptied of the remaining MIC. This led to a second mass evacuationfrom Bhopal.Complaints of a lack of information or misinformation were widespread. 12. AftermathImmediateUCC tries to shift blame on UCIL, sabotage etc UCC refuses to provide chemical composition of gas or suggest proper medicaltreatment Multi-billion dollar lawsuit filed in US courts by American attorneys (Dec 7)1985Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster Act GOI set up as sole representative of Bhopalvictims All cases transferred from US courts to Indian1989UCC accepts moral responsibility and settles out of court for $470 million (ofthe original $3 billion) UCC share rises $2 (i.e. up 7%) 13. Blame Game 14. Lapses :By Government The Madhya Pradesh State government had not mandated anysafety standards. Lax Government controls, poor training , no emergencypreparation. No audits and Inspections. Union Carbide failed to implement its own safety rules. The Bhopal plant experienced six accidents between 1981 and1984, at least three of which involved MIC or phosgene. 15. Lapses: By Union Carbide Improper design of chimneys (without consideration of weather conditions inall seasons) Improper design and maintenance of safety equipment. Not following safety regulations as that followed by UCC plants in USA. Inadequate emergency planning and community awareness. Lack of awareness of the potential impact of MIC on the community by thepeople operating the plant. Inadequate community planning, allowing a large population to live near ahazardous manufacturing plant. 16. Working Conditions Attempts to reduce expenses affected the factorys employees and theirconditions. Promotions were halted, seriously affecting employee morale and drivingsome of the most skilled ... elsewhere". Workers were forced to use English manuals, even though only a few had agrasp of the language. No maintenance supervisor was placed on the night shift and instrumentreadings were taken every two hours, rather than the previous and requiredone-hour readings. Workers made complaints about the cuts through their union but were ignoredby management. 17. Current SituationUCC shrunk to 1/6th its size since the disaster Still operates as subsidiary of Dow Chemicals Believes that the Bhopal disaster was a result of sabotage (Arthur D.Little report) UCIL Bhopal site not remediated Plant still leaks toxic chemicals 1999 analysis of groundwater shows- 20,000 times permissible amount of mercury- 50 times permissible amount of trichloroethane 2002 tests show chlorinated organics, lead and mercury in breast milkof nursing mothers 18. QuestionMany people have heard about Bhopal andUnion carbides connection to that incident .Notmany people , however know of Hawk NestTunnel incident. What is your Impression ofunion carbide when you think about both eventstogether ? 19. Hawks Nest Tunnel Disaster Construction of the Hawks Nest Tunnel near GauleyBridge, West Virginia, as part of a hydroelectric project. Involved injuries and deaths of more 700 workers . This project is considered to be one of the worstindustrial disasters in American history. 20. Hawk Nest Tunnel incident The incident revolves around the contraction of silicosis whileconstructing a new hydroelectric power plant. Silicosis is a disease that infects the lungs and gradually causesthe cells to digest themselves. The most common symptom exhibited by infected persons wasshortness of breath. Silicosis was contracted through inhaling rock dust thatcontained silica dust.Blasting away at the rock in order to build a tunnel producedthe dust. 21. UNION CARBIDES AMERICAN PLANT Dr. Paul Shrivastava, an Associate Professor of Business in NewYork University conducted studies that revealed that Bhopal wasneither an isolated incident nor the first of its kind in the corporation. There had been many accidents of similar nature in UCCs Americanplants prior to the Bhopal accident. He found that 28 major MIC leaks had occurred in UCCs WestVirginia plant during the five years preceding the Bhopal incident, thelast one occurring only a month before. 22. Remediation Process Bhopal continues to suffer the environmentalcontamination produced by the release of MIC Donations and medical/volunteer assistance has beenprovided Union Carbide accepted responsibility and agreed to a$470 million settlement 23. What compounded the tragedy was that the victims failed to get adequatecompensation and the generation that followed continued to suffer fromhealth complications. 24. Thank You