Bhopal, the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh in India, is known throughout the world for the huge industrial disaster, affecting millions of people, that occurred at a Union Carbide pesticide plant on the night of December 3, 1984. The Union Carbide Corporation technical team reports that a large volume of water was introduced into the Methyl Isocyanate tank and triggered a reaction (MIC) that resulted in the gas release (Lapierre & Moro, 1997).
In 1969, the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), a U.S. company, set up a plant in Bhopal in a joint venture with the Indian government. The plant was intended to produce pesticides for use in India’s huge agricultural sector. The decision to manufacture the pesticide in India, as opposed to relying on imports, was based on India’s goal of preserving foreign exchange and its policy of industrialization (Cassels, 1994). The site was chosen for several reasons. Bhopal is centrally located in India, with good railway connections. There are many nearby lakes to provide water. It has sufficient supplies of both electricity and labor needed to sustain a large industrial plant.
FACTORS CAUSING LEAKAGE OF GASES
It is puzzling that such a massive accident could occur in a plant that was supposed to meet international standards of safety. Many factors have been blamed for the leakage of gas in official and independent probes. The first factor relates to the huge and unsafe storage of lethal chemical tanks. The UCC was invariably storing more than the permitted quantities. In the interests of economy, several vital safety arrangements were also reported to have been compromised. Some NGOs accused the UCC of having double standards for safety when planning factories in developing countries (Chouhan et al, 1994; Ecikerman, 2003). The most serious allegations of negligence were the weaker safety measures and environmental standards in the Indian plant as compared to a similar plant located in West Virginia in the United States. The parent plant had computerized warning and monitoring system while the Indian plant relied on manual gauges and the human senses to detect gas leaks. The capacities of storage tanks, gas scrubbers, and flare towers were also greater at the parent plant in the U.S.