The Bhopal Gas Tragedy of December 3, 1984 is one of the most hazardous industrial accidents in history. The exposure of around 500,000 people to 42 tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate gas was a nightmare come true for all resulting in deaths in numbers that could never have been imagined from industrial accidents. All this and the after-effects could have been prevented if proper precautionary measures had been taken beforehand. Despite of an accident on such a large scale, initially the company was in a denial mode about the whole matter and later compared the whole thing just to be a ‘tear gas like’ situation.
Moreover they failed to provide any immediate antidote for the poisonous gases which had spread all over Bhopal affecting many more than initially imagined. The blame lies as to why no measures were taken regarding huge amounts of water entering tank 610? Why wasn’t there a person to look over the pressure and temperature statistics and control the pressure inside the container once the water had entered? The container should have been designed keeping in mind the sudden increase of pressure due to any such situation.
Some margin must have been there to account for sudden such rises. But the industry never had such precautionary steps in mind which eventually led to this. Moreover, the industry should have practiced drills and should have been prepared for such an incident beforehand. They should’ve been aware of methods to control the spread of the toxic gas once it had leaked from the main container. Such a control measure would have restricted the spread. The tank’s alarm had not been working for the past 4 years. A timely check on all such measures would have been helpful for its prevention.
The steam boiler used to clean the pipes that caused this leakage had been out of order since a long time. The responsible authorities should have been vigilant on such important issues. Timely cleaning of these pipes would have never caused such a major leakage. Water jets should have been set up in such an industry dealing with hazardous materials so that any toxic leakage’s concentration would have been reduced by spraying water at a high speed while it was still confined within the industry. Carbon steel valves were used in spite of the fact that they easily corrode when exposed to acids.
If such a realization had been there amongst the authorities and the valves would have been replaced before, such a tragedy could’ve been prevented. The very fact that the industry was located very close to a densely populated area directs towards ill-planning. The prevention of danger to the civilians should have the utmost priority of the planning authorities. The approving of such a plan by the state is also to blame. Even when the authorities had realized the leakage, they should’ve started working on evacuation plans.
This would have prevented the mass suffocation. The police authorities should have been informed at the earliest so that they could have carried on evacuation in the residential areas. But they were kept in the dark for a long time. Also the meteorological data was not monitored properly. Due to the absence of strong winds, the lakes in Bhopal influenced the local circulation significantly and caused northwesterly flow near the surface. The modified flow pattern resulted in the transport of the toxic gas directly into the city area of Bhopal.
If proper planning from the meteorological point had been done and the location had been determined such that the flow of toxins was in a different direction, away from the residential areas, then its affect on such a massive scale could’ve been prevented. Tragedies of the scale like the Bhopal Gas Tragedy can only be prevented if the concerned authorities fulfill their duties to the best of their abilities. Being prepared with the preventive measures to all the imaginable problems beforehand is always helpful in controlling accidents to transform to disastrous levels like this one.
Proper check of all the safety devices and monitoring all equipment on a regular basis is essential if such accidents have to be prevented in future. A lax by even a single official can prove to be fatal to many. The police and government officials in such areas must approve the plans only after thoroughly checking all equipments and plans and must remain vigilant at all times. Surprise checks must be conducted at these industries to monitor whether the working is being carried out according to the approved methods. It must be ensured that no scope is left for error of any kind which can lead to a disaster.