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Bhopal gas tragedy

The Bhopal disaster (commonly referred to as Bhopal gas tragedy) was a gas leak incident in India, considered one of the world's worst industrial catastrophes. It occurred on the night of December 23, 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India. A leak of methyl isocyanate gas and other chemicals from the plant resulted in the exposure of hundreds of thousands of people. Estimates vary on the death toll. The official immediate death toll was 2,259 and the government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. Others estimate 3,000 died within weeks and another 8,000 have since died from gas-related diseases. A government affidavit in 2006 stated the leak caused 558,125 injuries including 38,478 temporary partial and approximately ] 3,900 severely and permanently disabling injuries. As many as 25,000 deaths have been attributed to the disaster in recent estimates. UCIL was the Indian subsidiary of Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), with Indian Government controlled banks and the Indian public holding a 49.1 percent stake. In 1994, the Supreme Court of India allowed UCC to sell its 50.9 percent share. Union Carbide sold UCIL, the Bhopal plant operator, to Eveready Industries India Limited in 1994. The Bhopal plant was later sold to McLeod Russell (India) Ltd. Dow Chemical Company purchased UCC in 2001. Civil and criminal cases are pending in the United States District Court, Manhattan and the District Court of Bhopal, India, involving UCC, UCIL employees, and Warren Anderson, UCC CEO at the time of the disaster. In June 2010, seven exemployees, including the former UCIL chairman, were convicted in Bhopal of causing death by negligence and sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of about $2,000 each, the maximum punishment allowed by law. An eighth former employee was also convicted, but died before judgment was passed.

What happen?
The leakage
In November 1984, most of the safety systems were not functioning. Many valves and lines were in poor condition. Tank 610 contained 42 tons of MIC (disputed), much more than safety rules allowed. During the nights of 23 December, a large amount of water is claimed to have entered tank 610. A runaway reaction started, which was accelerated by contaminants, high temperatures and other factors. The reaction generated a major increase in the temperature inside the tank to over 200 C (400 F). This forced the emergency venting of pressure from the MIC holding tank, releasing a large volume of toxic gases. The reaction was sped up by the presence of iron from corroding non-stainless steel pipelines. Workers cleaned pipelines with water and claim they were not told to isolate the tank with a pipe slip-blind plate. Because of this, and the bad maintenance, the workers consider it possible for water to have accidentally entered the tank. UCC maintains that a "disgruntled worker" deliberately connected a hose to a pressure gauge connection.

Factors leading to the magnitude of the gas leak include:


Storing MIC in large tanks and filling beyond recommended levels Poor maintenance after the plant ceased MIC production at the end of 1984 Failure of several safety systems (due to poor maintenance) Safety systems being switched off to save moneyincluding the MIC tank refrigeration system which could have mitigated the disaster severity

The problem was made worse by the mushrooming of slums in the vicinity of the plant, non-existent catastrophe plans, and shortcomings in health care and socio-economic rehabilitation.

Political effects
The Bhopal Gas Tragedy has been one of the worst incidents in the history of India, right up there with the unpunished anti-Sikh riots of 1984, and the Gujarat anti-Muslim riots of 2002. The gas attack, in the dead night of early December 1984, had a personal connection for me. My dad had been in Bhopal for a official visit, just leaving a day before; a close call for us, but not for the thousands who perished from the effects of the gas in the first few days after the tragedy. This is a tragedy that has affected many hundreds of thousands as well, those who did not immediately suffer a fatality in the aftermath of the tragedy, but who were affected due to the effects of the gas, and suffered a series of health problems that have lasted till this day, and who will continue to suffer the effects for long periods after. And yet, they can be called a forgotten generation. After all, were it not for the recent court case that awarded a measly 2 year punishment to many office bearers of the company at the time of the gas attack, who would have said a word about a tragedy that struck 26 years back ? In fact, just the fact that it took 26 years for the judicial process to grind to a decision about criminal culpabilities is itself a grotesque tragedy. One benefit of the recent controversy has been a discussion about what are the rightful next steps to take for resolving the tragedy. For long, the factory (still present, with whatever contaminant still keeps on seeping into the soil) remains on the ground, and there had been no discussion on how to clean up the place (and one of the major steps in any industrial disaster is the cleanup process of an industrial disaster); the recent discussion has been about how to setup a process to clean up the disaster area (even though there are disputes about whether it will be the central Government or the state Government that will be responsible for the cleanup process). There is also a realization that the compensation given earlier was inadequate, but the current debate overall the proposed new compensation policy is also raven by dispute, and there is a worry that there will be enough red-tape in the entire process that a number of people affected by the tragedy will continue to not get the required compensation. The biggest controversy in all this is the fate of Warren Anderson. From all the discussion so far, it would seem that the chain of steps was that Warren Anderson wanted to see the actual site of the tragedy, but was astute enough that the heated atmosphere could entrap him, and so sought safe passage. He was granted this safe passage, and when was arrested by the local administration in Bhopal, that promise was invoked. Given that he traveled by a state Government plane to Delhi, then met the President before leaving the country, would seem that both the State Government (headed by Arjun Singh) and the Central Government (headed by Rajiv Gandhi) were to blame. The Congress has left Arjun Singh to his own statements (and he has clammed up, wanting the entire controversy to die down), but will do everything to ensure that the memory of the late Rajiv Gandhi does not get entangled in this. However, one needs to see whether all this discussion of the Group of Ministers comes out with something that will actually benefit the people involved. There are a huge number of people who have been affected at various levels by this tragedy, some who suffer huge losses and medical problems, and some who suffer ailments that are persistent or come up at regular intervals.

Medical consequences
Gas circulated through the blood streams of victims, carrying toxins and causing damage to the eyes, lungs, kidneys, liver, intestines, muscles, brain and reproductive and immune systems.

Studies by the ICMR showed that the no. of people with exposure related symptoms actually increased between 1987 and 1991. Some 43% of the women from the severely affected communities who were pregnant at the time of the disaster aborted. Study of growth and development of children whose mothers were exposed to the gases during pregnancy revealed that the majority of children had delayed gross motor and language sector development. Studies have also presented evidence of chromosomal damage. A survey of psychiatric morbidity found that nearly 40% of those exposed suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. Half a million others were exposed of which 120,000 to 150,000 continue to be chronically ill today and need urgent medical attention. With an estimated 10-15 people continuing to die each month the number of deaths to date is put at close to 20,000. At the time Union Carbide maintained that the gas formed from Methyl Iso Cyanate, was not toxic and exposure brought only temporary discomfort. Livelihoods Over 70% of the exposed populations were people earning subsistence wages. An estimated 50,000 are in need of alternative jobs because they can no longer do the physically demanding work that they did before. Less than 100 people affected by the gas have found regular employment under govt. economic rehabilitation schemes. Unable to carry on with physically demanding jobs, families have become economically devastated. Peanuts compensation As the 20th anniversary of the tragedy approaches, survivors are gaining ground in their demand for financial and environmental compensation. In l985 the Indian Government sued Union Carbide for 3.3 billion dollars and in l989 settled for a mere 470 million. This money, later deposited with RBI, has now swelled up to Rs 1,503 crores. In a major relief, the Supreme Court asked the government to distribute Rs 1,503 crores among the victims of Bhopal gas tragedy which claimed 15,000 lives and injured five lakh people about 20 years ago. Although Union Carbide claimed this was a lot of money for India, it actually amounts to less per victim than the Indian railroad pays its employees for loss of life or injury. For Union Carbide, the settlement cost 43 cents per share. In the community right opposite the factory, 91% of settlement survivors received Rs 25,000 (US $552) as compensation. Stockholders were delighted at the settlement and share value surged, but many Indian families had to sell all their resources and go into debt to cover medical costs for lifelong illnesses. Union Carbides actions violated international human rights law, environmental law, and international criminal law, and the plaintiffs sought to hold the corporation accountable for these violations.

Bhopal still drinks poison: CSE study


A study by Indian non-profit organization the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) last year showed groundwater three kilometers (two miles) from the plant contained 110 times the maximum quantity of the pesticide carbonyl deemed safe in Indian bottled water. "The factory site in Bhopal is leading to chronic toxicity -- continuous tiny exposure leading to poisoning," said the director of the CSE, Sunita Narain. The local government in Madhya Pradesh, of which Bhopal is the capital, acknowledges the waste is still there. 25 years after the worlds worst chemical disaster in India left thousands dead and lakh affected, Old Bhopal wonders whether the water it drinks is still toxic or not. Releasing findings of a study done November 2009, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said that water inside the 80-acre site of Union Carbide, and in a radius of up to three kilometers outside, contains pesticide far higher than the acceptable limit for human beings. CSE director Sunita Narain said there was evidence that the chemicals from Union Carbide leak on the night of December 3, 1984 continue to poison the people through the water they drink. While piped water is being supplied in most areas, people are heavily dependent on bore wells too.

Government announced a Rs 1265.56-crore package


Due to outrage over the trial courts verdict in the Bhopal gas tragedy, Government announced a Rs 1265.56-crore package and decided to file a curative petition in the Supreme Court besides pushing for extradition of the former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson on June 24, 2010 The Union cabinet, which considered the report of the Group of Ministers on the 1984 disaster, accepted all its 22 recommendations but did not fix liability on anybody. It decided that the opinion of the attorney general would be sought on whether Dow Chemicals or any other successor to Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) or Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) could be held liable, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni told reporters. The cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decided that ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh would be given to the kind of each killed in the tragedy, Rs 5 lakh to those who suffered permanent disability, Rs 2 lakh each to people who suffered cancer and total renal failure and Rs 1 lakh to those with temporary disability. The ex-gratia would benefit 45,000 affected people and the amount would be paid after adjusting the compensation already paid, Soni said. The government also announced various packages for remediation, rehabilitation and other measures, taking the total spending to Rs 1265.56 crores.

4. Conclusions
1. Every business decision has safety consequences. 2. A negative safety outcome is a negative business outcome. 3. In order to do the right thing, politics and the local community must be assessed, Understood, and protected.
The tragedy of Bhopal continues to be a warning sign at once ignored and heeded. Bhopal and its aftermath were a warning that the path to industrialization, for developing countries in general and India in particular, is fraught with human, environmental and economic perils. Some moves by the Indian government, including the formation of the MoEF, have served to offer some protection of the public's health from the harmful practices of local and multinational heavy industry and grassroots organizations that have also played a part in opposing rampant development. The Indian economy is growing at a tremendous rate but at significant cost in environmental health and public safety as large and small companies throughout the subcontinent continue to pollute. Far more remains to be done for public health in the context of industrialization to show that the lessons of the countless thousands dead in Bhopal have truly been heeded.

Aftermath of the leakage


Medical staff was unprepared for the thousands of casualties. Doctors and hospitals were not informed of proper treatment methods for MIC gas inhalation. They were told to simply give cough medicine and eye drops to their patients. The gases immediately caused visible damage to the trees. Within a few days, all the leaves fell off. 2,000 bloated animal carcasses had to be disposed of. "Operation Faith": On December 16, the tanks 611 and 619 were emptied of the remaining MIC. This led to a second mass evacuation from Bhopal. Complaints of a lack of information or misinformation were widespread. The Bhopal plant medical doctor did not have proper information about the properties of the gases. An Indian Government spokesman said that "Carbide is more interested in getting information from us than in helping our relief work." As of 2008, UCC had not released information about the possible composition of the cloud. Formal statements were issued that air, water, vegetation and foodstuffs were safe within the city. At the same time, people were informed that poultry was unaffected, but were warned not to consume fish.

Compensation from Union Carbide


The 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 UCC. In 1989, a settlement was reached under which UCC agreed to payUS$470 million (the insurance sum, plus interest) in a full and final settlement of its civil and criminal liability. When 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 and Research Centre (BMHRC) was inaugurated in 1998. It was obliged to give free care for survivors for eight years.

Economic rehabilitation
After the incident, no one under the age of 18 was registered. The number of children exposed to the gases was at least 200,000. Immediate relief was decided two days after the tragedy. Relief measures commenced in 1985 when food was e . distributed for a short period and ration cards were distribut d Widow pension of the rate of Rs 200/per month (later Rs 750) was provided. One-time ex-gratia payment of Rs 1,500 to families with monthly income Rs 500 or less was decided. Each claimant was to be categorized by a doctor. In court, the claimants were expected to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that death or injury in each case was attributable to exposure. In 1992, 44 percent of the claimants still had to be medically examined. From 1990 interim relief of Rs 200 was paid to everyone in the family who was born before the disaster. The final compensation (including interim relief) for personal injury was for the majority Rs 25,000 (US$ 830). For death claim, the average sum paid out was Rs 62,000 (US$ 2,058). Effects of interim relief were more children sent to school, more money spent on treatment, more money spent on food, improvement of housing conditions. The management of registration and distribution of relief showed many shortcomings.

In 2007, 1,029,517 cases were registered and decided. Numbers of awarded cases were 574,304 and number of rejected cases 455,213. Total compensation awarded was Rs.1, 546.47 crores. On June 24, the Union Cabinet of the Government of India approved an Rs1265cr aid package. It will be funded by Indian taxpayers through the government.

Occupational rehabilitation
33 of the 50 planned work-sheds for gas victims started. All except one was closed down by 1992. 1986, the MP government invested in the Special Industrial Area Bhopal. 152 of the planned 200 work-sheds were built. In 2000, 16 were partially functioning. It is estimated that 50,000 persons need alternative jobs, and that less than 100 gas victims have found regular employment under the government's schem e.

Habitation rehabilitation
2,486 flats in two- and four-story buildings were constructed in the "Widows colony" outside Bhopal. The water did not reach the upper floors. It was not possible to keep cattle. Infrastructures like buses, schools, etc. were missing for at least a decade.

Health care
In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the health care system became tremendously overloaded. Within weeks, the State Government established a number of hospitals, clinics and mobile units in the gas-affected area. Radical health groups set up JSK (the People's Health Centre) that was working a few years from 1985. Since the leak, a very large number of private practitioners have opened in Bhopal. In the severely affected areas, nearly 70 percent do not appear to be professionally qualified. The Government of India has focused primarily on increasing the hospital-based services for gas victims. Several hospitals have been built after the disaster. In 1994, there were approximately 1.25 beds per 1,000, compared to the recommendation from the World Bank of 1.0 bed per 1,000 in developing countries. The Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) is a 350-bedded super specialty hospital. Heart surgery and hem dialysis are done. Major specialties missing are gynecology, obstetrics and pediatrics. Eight miniunits (outreach health centers) were started. Free health care for gas victims should be offered until 2006. The management has faced problems with strikes, and the quality of the health care is disputed. Sambhavna Trust is a charitable trust that registered in 1995. The clinic gives modern and Ayurvedic treatments to gas victims, free of charge.

Environmental rehabilitation
When the factory was closed in 19851986, pipes, drums and tanks were sold. The MIC and the Seven plants are still there, as are storages of different residues. Isolation material is falling down and spreading. The area around the plant was used as a dumping area for hazardous chemicals. In 1982 tube wells in the vicinity of the UCC factory had to be abandoned. UCC's laboratory tests in 1989 revealed that soil and water samples collected from near the factory and inside the plant were toxic to fish. Several other studies have shown polluted soil and groundwater in the area.

Reported polluting compounds include naphtha, naphthalene, Seven, tarry residue, mercury, toxic organ chlorines, volatile organ chlorine compounds,chromium, copper, nickel, lead, hexachloroethane, hexachlorobutadiene, and the pesticide HCH. In order to provide safe drinking water to the population around the UCC factory, there is a scheme for improvement of water supply. In December 2008, the Madhya Pradesh High Court decided that the toxic waste should be incinerated at Ankleshwar in Gujarat. In October 2011, the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment published an article and video by two British environmental scientists, showing the current state of the plant, landfill and solar evaporation ponds and calling for renewed international efforts to provide the necessary skills to clean up the site and contaminated groundwater

MANAGEMENT Safety rules not followed Maintenance of plant was bad Staff reduced, uneducated

Dow slams SC higher compensation ruling


SUNDAY, 04 DECEMBER 2011 17:38 ABRAHAM THOMAS | NEW DELHI HITS: 263


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US-based Dow Chemicals, which owns Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), has questioned the Supreme Courts authority in enhancing the compensation package for victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy. In an exhaustive affidavit in response to an SC notice, the company ruled out any possibility for enhancement. It stated that two Supreme Court judgements have given finality to the 1989 full and final settlement arrived between the Centre and UCC - at $470 million - to which even the Centre never objected. This figure was quite high compared to the then standard of compensation and if it is revisited, Dow demanded refund of the initial amount. Though it seems an uphill task for the Centre to get over the objections, it may first have to get over the preliminary issue of jurisdiction raised by Dow. In its affidavit, Dow Chemicals said, Dow Chemicals company is a foreign company incorporated in Delaware, USA, with its principal place of business in Michigan, USA. It has no presence in India that would make it amenable to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. It added, Nor did it have any presence in India at the time of the events underlying the instant curative petition to make it amenable to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. A five-judge Bench which is examining the issue had issued notice earlier this year to examine the request of Centre seeking an additional sum of ` 5,786 crore besides additional liability of `1,743 crore on UCC towards rehabilitation

of victims and `315 crore towards environmental degradation. The incident of December 2-3, 1984 being by far one of the worst industrial and chemical tragedies, the apex court had sought responses from all present and erstwhile owners of UCC - Dow Chemicals, McLeod Russel India and Eveready Industries. Responding to the grounds adopted by the Centre terming the 1989 settlement as erroneous as the total deaths reported then were 3000 which later rose to 5295 and correspondingly even the injured who rose from 50,000 to 5.27 lakh, Dow affidavit disputed the figures and claimed each victim was paid compensation twice over, higher than prevailing market rate. Under law, the company said it was not bound to pay even a penny more than the agreed settlement. Holding out a threat to the Centre seeking review of the previous compensation, the company, determined to pursue a civil suit, demanded the money already paid to be refunded with interest.