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BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY Sanjib Dutta, IFCAI Center for Management Research (ICMR), Hyderabad, India. CHN-391, Technical Communication Dr. Basheshwar Prasad Dr. Ram Praksh Bharti Gaurang Mahawar - 13112033 B. Tech, 4 th Year

Bhopal Gas Tragedy

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BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDYSanjib Dutta, IFCAI Center for Management Research (ICMR), Hyderabad, India.CHN-391, Technical CommunicationDr. Basheshwar PrasadDr. Ram Praksh BhartiGaurang Mahawar - 13112033B. Tech, 4th Year

AN OVERVIEWOn the night of Dec. 2nd and 3rd, 1984, a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, began leaking 27 tons of the deadly gas methyl isocyanate.

Half a million people were exposed to the gas and numerous have died to date as a result of their exposure.

More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments caused by the accident and the subsequent pollution at the plant site.

These ailments include blindness, extreme difficulty in breathing, and gynaecological disorders.

THE COMPANYUnion Carbide Corporation began operations in India in 1934.

In the UCIL, 50.9% owned by Union carbide corporation, the parent company and 49.1% owned by Indian investors to include the Indian government.

In 1975, UCIL was licensed to manufacture its own carbaryl with the trade name Sevin.

In 1984, UCC reported sales of $ 9.5 billion and UCIL had sale of $ 200 million.


MonoMethylAmine (MMA)2.Phosgene3.MethylIsoCyanate (MIC)4. -Napthol5.Carbaryl (Sevin)


Figure: Reaction scheme for the formation of Methyl Isocyanate


Figure: Block diagram of the Methyl Isocyanate plantSource: Google Images


Figure: The MIC Storage System (MSS)Source: Google Images

THE PROCESS & THE PLANTThe MIC storage system (MSS) consisted of three storage tanks, two for normal use (Tanks 610 and 611) and one for emergency use (Tank 619). The tanks were 8 ft. diameter x 40 ft. long Capacity of 15,000 US gal. Made of 304 stainless steel Design pressure of 40 psig at 121C 30 ton refrigeration system was provided to keep the tank contents at 0C by circulating the liquid through an external heat exchanger.

MIC & its propertiesMIC is a colourless liquid with a normal boiling point of 39C. It has a low solubility in water. It is relatively stable when dry, but is highly reactive and in particular can polymerize and will react with water. It is flammable and has a flashpoint of -18C.It is biologically active and highly toxic.It also reacts with water, iron being a catalyst for this reaction. This reaction is strongly exothermic.

Events prior to the mishap

Chronology of events

The emergencyLarge numbers of people were affected by the toxic gas and very large numbers fled their homes.

The two hospitals principally concerned, the Hamidia and the Jayaprakash Hospitals, were overwhelmed with casualties.

The difficulties were compounded by the fact that it was not known what the gas was or what its effects were.

Speculation about the gas, including suggestions that it was phosgene or Chlorine (the first hand information provided by UCIL), continued in the world press for some days.

The emergencyOn 3 December, doctors at the Gandhi Memorial College carried out post-mortems which gave strong evidence of cyanide poisoning.

The standard treatment for cyanide poisoning is sodium thiosulfate.

There developed a conflict of views on the appropriate treatment.

One group took the view that this should not be given until cyanide poisoning was established by analyses, another argued that it was well known that in cyanide poisoning the cyanide may be metabolized, leaving little trace.

Theories givenThere are two theories explaining how water entered the tank:

Water Washing Theory (Theory given by Indian Government) Sabotage Theory (Theory given by Union Carbide Corporation)

Water washing theoryAt the time, workers were cleaning out a clogged pipe as a part of routine maintenance.

They did not go through the plant standard operating procedures and hence they failed to insert the slip-blind plate used to prevent water from going inside the tank.

It was suggested water might have entered MIC storage Tank 610 as a result of this operation.

This was the most trustable and plausible theory given for the gas leak.

Sabotage theoryIt was concluded that an angry employee secretly introduced a large amount of water into the MIC tank by removing a detachable pipe and connecting a water hose directly to the tank through the metering port.

Carbide claimed that such a large quantity of water could not enter the tank by accident, available safety systems couldnt deal with intentional sabotage.

Hypothesis of direct entry of water

First, an instrument supervisor, not on duty that night, stated that he had found the local pressure indicator on the tank missing; this was one of the few points to which a water hose could be connected.

Second, a water hose was found nearby.

Third, there was evidence that the operators had become aware earlier in the evening that water had entered Tank 610 and had taken steps to deal with the situation.

FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO THE LEAKStoring of MIC in large tanks and filling beyond recommended levels.

Refrigeration had been discontinued and the MIC was kept at 20 C despite the recommended level of 4.5 C.

A blind was not used to isolate the lines being washed out.

The Vent Gas Scrubber (VGS) did not work.

The flare was out of commission for five months before the disaster..

Lack of skilled operators. No proper training was given to them.

Health effectsCoughing, vomiting, eye irritation and a feeling of suffocation.

Burning of respiratory tracts and stomach pain.

Causes of deaths were choking, circulatory collapse and pulmonary oedema.

Tubular necrosis of the kidneys.

Long term health effectsEye problems.

Respiratory difficulties.

Immune and neurological disorders.

Cardiac failure.

Female reproductive difficulties

Birth defects among children born to defected female.

The aftermathThe precise numbers of the dead and injured at Bhopal are STILL uncertain.

The official Indian Government estimate of the death toll about 2 years after the event was 1754.

By 1989, this had risen to 3150 and by 1994 to 4000.

Other figures given are 30,000 permanently or totally disabled; 20,000 temporary cases; and 50,000 with minor injury.

This report states that 1985 the number of people treated in the state hospitals had been given as approximately 170,000.

Compensation from the union carbideThe Government of India passed the Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster Act that gave the government rights to represent all victims in or outside India.

UCC offered US $ 350 million, the insurance sum. The Government of India claimed US $ 3.3 billion from Union Carbide Corporation.

In 1989, a settlement was reached under which UCC agreed to pay US $ 470 million (the insurance sum plus interest) in a full and final settlement of its civil and criminal liability.

Compensation from the union carbideWhen UCC wanted to sell its shares in UCIL, it was directed by the Supreme Court to finance a 500 bed hospital for the medical care of the survivors.

Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Centre (BMHRC) was inaugurated in 1998. It was obliged to give free care for survivors for eight years.

This meagre compensation freed UCC of all the criminal charges.

A POLITICAL DIGNo arrests had been made.

Warren Andersons involvement.

Rajiv Gandhi striking a deal to release Adil Shahryar (son of Mohamad Yunus) in place of releasing Warren Anderson.

More severe than 9/11 attacks of 2996 causalities.

No adequate compensation by state government under Arjun Singh.

From left to right: Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Nicholas Roerich, Mohamad Yunus.Source: Google Images

REFERENCESCase study by Sanjib Dutta, IFCAI Center for Management Research (ICMR), Hyderabad, India.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disasterhttp://www.unioncarbide.com/Google Images

Thank you!