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During this time, methyl isocynate gas escaped into the atmosphere when a faulty gas valve broke under immense pressure. Leaking into the slums residential area of Bhopal, India,…
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The Bhopal - Union Carbide Tragedy The Bhopal - Union Carbide gas leak explosion occured over a span of 2 days from December 2-3, 1984. During this time, methyl isocynate gas escaped into the atmosphere when a faulty gas valve broke under immense pressure. Leaking into the slums residential area of Bhopal, India, more than 20 thousand people died from the effects of chemical exposure while over 3 thousand required medical treatment. (BBC, “1984: Hundered Die in Bhopal Chemical Accident”) Even animals were not spared as cats, dogs, and birds, littered the streets -- lifeless. This was and is, considered to be one of the most disastrous explosions to have rocked the 1980s. 29 years after the tragic event, it is but right that a new generation of people come to learn of the facts surrounding an event that redefined the way that governments respond to chemical explosions. This paper will also look at the after effect of the explosion on the judicial system and take a look at how the victims have benefitted or not from the court decisions.
It is important to understand that the Bhopal tragedy did not fall squarely on the shoulders of Union-Carbide, a mere stock holder in the Union-Carbide plant. Rather, Union-Carbide India was owned and operated by the Indian company of the same name. In a statement on their website, Union - Carbide explains that:
“Union Carbide India Limited designed, built and managed the plant using Indian consultants and workers. In 1994, Union Carbide sold its entire stake in UCIL to Mcleod Russel India Limited of Calcutta, and UCIL was renamed Eveready Industries India Limited (Eveready Industries). As a result of the sale of its shares in UCIL, Union Carbide retained no interest in - or liability for - the Bhopal site. The proceeds of the UCIL sale were placed in a trust and exclusively used to fund a hospital in Bhopal, which now provides specialist care to victims of the tragedy. “
After the explosion, Union Carbide hired the independent firm of Arthur D. Little, Inc. to undertake a thorough investigation as to what caused the explosion. The findings of the investigators was clear. There was sabotage involved as water backed into the tank that caused a chemical reaction, leading to the explosion. ( Bhopal Information Center, “Statement of Union Carbide Regarding The Bhopal Tragedy”). Safety precautions have since been taken on a world wide scale to prevent the occurrence of another explosion stemming from a similar cause.
The Supreme Court of India saw just cause to hold Union-Carbide partly responsible for the disaster and ordered the company to settle with the victims. The settlement directives are as follows ( Bhopal Information Center, “The Incident, Response, and Settlement”):
“In February 1989, the Supreme Court of India directed a final settlement of all Bhopal litigation in the amount of $470 million. The Government of India, UCC and UCIL accepted the Court’s direction.Ten days after the decision, UCC and UCIL made full payment of the $470 million to the Indian government.
The Indian government, that owned the plant was not totally cleared of responsibility either as the court ( Bhopal Information Center, “The Incident, Response, and Settlement”)::
“Required the Government of India to purchase, out of the settlement fund, a group medical insurance policy to cover 100,000 persons who may later develop symptoms; and required the Government of India to make up any shortfall, however unlikely, in the settlement fund. “
In July 2004, exactly 15 years after the accident, the rest of the funds in the care of Union Carbide was released to the remaining victims so that by the year 2006, there were no longer any unsettled claims between the victims, the corporation, and the government of India.
Sources
BBC (2014). 1984: Hundreds die in Bhopal chemical accident. bbc.co.uk. bbc.co.uk. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/december/3
/newsid_2698000/2698709.stm
Bhopal Information Center. (2014). Statement of Union-Carbide regarding the Bhopal tragedy. bhopal.com. bhopal.com. Retrieved from http://www.bhopal.com/union-carbide- statements
Bhopal Information Center (2014). The incident, response, and settlement. bhopal.com.bhopal.com. Retrieved from http://www.bhopal.com/incident-response-and- settlement Read More
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