(Online Course) Madhya Pradesh PSC: General Studies: Bhopal Disaster

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General Studies: Bhopal Disaster

The Bhopal disaster was an industrial disaster that occurred in the city of Bhopal. Madhya Pradesh, India, resulting in the immediate deaths of more than 3,000 people, according to the Indian Supreme Court. A more probable figure is that 8,000 died within two weeks, and it is estimate that the same number have since died from gas related diseases. However, testimonies from doctors who provided medical assistance during the tragedy claim over 15,000 were dead in the first month and approximately 20,000 in total.

The incident took place in the early hours of the morning of December 3,1984, in the heart of the city of Bhopal in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. A Union Carbide subsidiary pesticide plant released 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas, killing approximately 3,800 people instantly. The Bhopal disaster is frequently cited as the world's worst industrial disaster. The International Medical Commission on Bhopal was established in 1993 to respond to the disasters.

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Two decades later, more than 1,00,000 people have permanent injuries, light or severe. The groundwater around the plant areas remains contaminated, and the question of cleaning up the area is still unresolved.


The Union Carbide India, Limited (UCIL), plant was established in 1969 51percentwas owned by Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and 49percent by Indian authorities. It produced the pesticide carbaryl (trade mark sevin). Methyl isocyanate (MIC), an intermediate in carbaryl manufacture, was used instead of less toxic but more expensive materials. In 1979, a plant for producing MIC was added. UCC was responsible for all technique and design. The plant was located close to a densely populated area, instead of on the other side of the town where
UCIL was offered an area, MIC was stored in a few large tanks instead of several small tanks. The alarms did not direct the inhabitants.

During the nights of December 2nd and 3rd large amounts of water entered tank 610. The resulting reaction generated a major increase in the temperature of liquid inside the tank to over 400°F (200°C).The MIC holding tank then gave off a large volume of toxic gas, forcing the emergency release of pressure. The reaction was sped up by the presence of iron from corroding non-stainless steel pipelines.
There have been several theories on the reason for the entry of water into the tank. The workers claim that because of the bad maintenance with leaking valves etc. it was possible for the water to climb from the point where the pipeline washing was performed to tank 610. UCC maintains that this was not possible, and that it was an act of sabotage by a "disgruntled worker" who introduced water directly into the tank, though this would be unlikely if maintenance had been good, the safety systems had been working and the saboteur would have wanted to save his own life and health.
The deciding factors that cause the outcome were the plant design (location near a densely populated area, using hazardous chemicals instead of less dangerous, storing in large tanks, corroding material in pipeline etc.), defective management resulting from the economic pressure from UCC (poor education of operators, safety systems not functioning etc.), and in the aftermath, negligence on the part of the governments of India and Madhya Pradesh as well as UCC.

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