30 YEARS OF BHOPAL GAS TRAGEDY.. LESSONS TO LEARN
A US multinational pesticide company called ” union carbide” operating in Bhopal, met with an accident in December 1984, spewed enormous amount of poisonous gases killing thousands of people and leaving many more in serious health hazards – whose effects are felt even today.
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?
There was a leakage in the water pipe and as result water entered into methyl iso cyanide(MIC) tank. Also refrigeration system was not working to cool MIC and prevent chemical reaction. Due to this, exothermic reaction took place releasing large amount of heat and the volume of gas increased and a cloud of gases phosgene, carbon monoxide and MIC started coming out. As it was very spontaneous and rapidly it spread and soon a very dense cloud was formed over the city of Bhopal exposing half a million people.
WHAT ARE THE WAYS OR CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH CHEMICAL DISASTER MAY ARRIVE?
Accident can happen in 2 ways.
- Storage: No proper isolated specific storage rooms and also lack of maintenance of gas cylinder or container.
- Reaction: system failure, no precautions are taken, mistake by workers, machinery are not maintained properly which might lead to unwarranted reactions. (as happened in Bhopal gas tragedy)
WHAT KIND OF PREPAREDNESS IS REQUIRED NOW?
off late chemical and nuclear plants are on the rise, so if there are precautions taken then disasters can be mitigated, contained and if accidents do happen then damage can be minimized.
- The first and far most step to be done is to have an Onsite and offsite plan: onsite plan is capacity building for the people within the industry esp. the labourers should be imparted with basic knowledge, awareness of hazardous gases or chemicals being used in the industry, continuous feedback to workers, do’s and don’ts when accident happens, mock drills should be regularly conducted.
Offsite plan refers to outside industry. Public should be given awareness. Their participation and cooperation is very crucial so that panics and rumors can be avoided, these things are crucial esp. for the people residing close to the vicinity of the industries.
For instance during Bhopal gas tragedy, had people been little aware to cover their faces esp. eyes with wet cloth, much of the damage could have been minimized.
This should be made mandatory duty of the industries.
- After the Bhopal gas tragedy, a disaster management institute has been opened. Likewise many more institutes should be opened near the industrial belts to train the man power.
- Parliament passed an act in 2005 and NATIONAL DISASTER MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY was established. These members provide guidelines to every state regarding nuclear and chemical disaster. And also authorizes to release funds to every state to prepare a state plan and a district plan. This is being followed at the state level but not so regularly at the district level.
- There are close to 300 districts in India that have a major accidental hazard units . There must be a good connection and coordination with the local authority, police, media, fire stations.
- Training and knowledge should be imparted to these agencies. Crucial is local authorities who review license and check the safety standards of these industries. Police and fire brigade should be well prepared for the immediate measures to be taken when the accidents happen.
- Through research vulnerable areas, vulnerable sites, hot spots can be identified and the district authorities should maintain the data base.
- There are more than 20 universities who are offering degrees in disaster management. As far as chemical disaster, it should be made mandatory for IIT’s and all engineering institutions that some knowledge should be imparted within the industrial management discipline.
- National public awareness campaign is required to avoid rumors, misconception and miscommunication.