BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY (Syllabus GS Paper 3 – Disaster Management)

News-CRUX-10     8th May 2024        

Context: Recently, a massive fire erupted at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, sparking panic among locals. This site infamously witnessed the 1984 methyl isocyanate gas leak, claiming thousands of lives and disabling millions.

Bhopal Gas Tragedy

  • About: On December 3, 1984, Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) leaked from the pesticide plant of Union Carbide in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, causing one of the worst chemical disasters globally.
  • Characteristics of Methyl Isocyanate (MIC): It  is a highly flammable liquid with a sharp, strong odor, evaporating quickly when exposed to air.

o Exposure to concentrations as low as 21ppm can lead to death within minutes due to its extreme toxicity.

  • Cause of Bhopal Gas Leak: The disaster occurred on December 3, 1984, when 40 tons of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked out of a pesticide factory in Bhopal.
  • Occurrence of Events: The Union Carbide factory contained three underground tanks used to store liquid Methyl Isocyanate (MIC), pressurized with inert nitrogen gas, allowing the liquid MIC to be pumped out as needed.
  • Symptoms of Exposure: Coughing, severe eye irritation, suffocation sensation, burning in the respiratory tract, breathlessness, stomach cramps, and vomiting.
  • Causes of Death: Choking, reflexogenic circulatory collapse, and pulmonary edema were the primary causes of death among affected individuals.
  • Legislative Actions in Response:

o The Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster (Processing of Claims) Act: It  was passed in 1985, empowering the Indian government to settle claims and represent affected individuals.

o The Public Liability Insurance Act of 1991: It made compulsory for industries to obtain insurance, with premiums contributing to an Environment Relief Fund for compensating victims of similar disasters.