The Disaster That Could Have Been Avoided

The documentary we watched today left me completely horrified. I had never heard about the Bhopal disaster. To see thousands of people still suffering even after 30+ years was really painful. The people were completely helpless they didn’t even have support from their own government. According to the movie ‘Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain’, Union Carbide Company (UCC) had bribed the Indian government to take their side. UCC paid the Government of India only $470 million as a total compensation but the actual damage claimed by the Indian Government was $3.3 billion. This was completely not fair for the victims! According to the documentary victims with a lifelong disability received only $500! Is all this different because India is a developing country? But all those victims are still humans! The sum they paid for the victims was not sufficient to treat their conditions. Nothing can bring back the families they lost. If something like this had happened in the US, the scene would have been completely different. First of all, if UCC was located in the US, none of this would have happened. They would have been concerned about the safety of the workers. This was not the case in India, even before this disaster, minor disasters were reported inside UCC. There was no action taken about this matter. In 1981, a factory worker was killed due to phosgene poisoning and in January 1982 another phosgene gas leak took place and 24 workers were admitted to the hospital. The works were not even told to wear masks when working. Again in February 1982, there was a methyl isocyanate leak where18 workers were exposed. There were two other methyl isocyanate leaks in the same year. In the years 1983-1984, multiple leaks of phosgene, chlorine, monomethyl amine, carbon tetrachloride and methyl isocyanate were reported. All of these leaks were due to the lack of maintenance of the plant. UCC continued their work without paying much attention to the leaks nor the health of the workers. There were even 4 newspaper articles published within 1982-1984, warning people about Union Carbide. The four articles were titled as- ‘Please Save This City’, ‘Bhopal Sitting On Top Of A Volcano’, ‘If You Don’t Understand This, You Will Be Wiped Out.’ and ‘Bhopal On Brink Of Disaster.’. Another shocking fact I came across was that during the gas leak, 40 metric tons of methyl isocyanate gas was released in 45-60 minutes which increased the neonatal mortality rate by 200% and increased the stillbirth rate by 300%. Furthermore, 70% of the doctors who treated the victims were underqualified. This tragedy took away the lives of 2000 animals and 25,000 innocent civilians including immediate and long-term casualties. Later a group of researchers had found that the mercury level during the gas leak was actually 20,000 to 6 million times more that the values they expected. The most devastating fact about this disaster is that all these lives could have been saved. This was a preventable tragedy. If UCC had taken necessary actions to improve the safety of the workers and maintain the plant, none of this would have happened. So many families were torn apart that night. This disaster swept thousands of dreams and hopes from innocent civilians. I feel that the UCC should have done more to help these people. After all, it was all their fault. At least, they should have provided them with safe drinking water. These civilians are drinking poison every day. They know its poison but they are forced to drink it. Like the victims say, they are really living in hell. This documentary made me think again of all the things I take for granted. I feel that UCC should take necessary actions to fund the Indian Government for the medication and safe water distribution for the Bhopal citizens.


30 Terrible Bhopal Gas Tragedy Facts

A M Ovini H Amarasinghe


5 thoughts on “The Disaster That Could Have Been Avoided

  1. Bhopal was a terrible accident, and accidents like this do happen in the United States, in fact they have even happened in Cincinnati. Examples include the BASF explosion, Queen City Barrel Fire, Rosemont Fire, AES Roof Collapse and many others. And most old gas stations have contaminated the ground below them with leaked gasoline. These all happened here in Cincinnati, just not on the scale of Bhopal. The accident in Bhopal was compounded by poverty before and after the accident, a government that took a large share of the settlement and a system that does not provide the public goods that Americans consider a basic function of government.

    Mike Cappel


  2. What sickens me is how american corporations can go over seas, and pollute other countries to the point where people are experiencing the effects 30 years later, and they do not feel the need to clean up their mess or own up to it. This is horrifying. Something similar happened with Unilever in Kodaikanal and they still will not own up to and and clean up their mess as well. I just wonder what can be done to stop things like this from happening.-Madeline Howard


  3. I was also horrified by the Bhopal documentary we watched in class. I had heard about the incident before in an environmental studies class that I took, but watching the video and actually seeing the damage and the people affected was powerful. Union Carbide should have been held responsible for fixing the problem, and now that Dow owns the company, they should be held responsible. They bought Union Carbide, they bought the responsibility too.

    Katie Clontz


  4. It is ridiculous that American companies can travel to other countries and destroy their communities and pay very little repercussions from it. Now that Union Carbide is owned by Dow, they now own all of their liabilities. Dow should have to pay to fix the Bhopal disaster, which includes cleaning their environment and caring for the families who are ill from the contaminated water.

    Andrew Traicoff


  5. I completely agree with everything you’ve said, as well as the comments here. I was sickened, outraged, and saddened to see how inhumanely the situation was handled by both the company and the Indian government. It’s unfortunate that for developing countries, they see these large companies like UCC and Dow as a way to improve their economic status. From this, we have a sort of odd relationship between abusive corporate practice and a government responsibility to protect its citizens.

    Kaylin Brodzki


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