The Watering Hole: December 3 – Bhopal

This is our open thread. Please feel free to offer your own comments on any topic.

It is 25 years ago today that a deadly cloud of chemicals swept over the Indian town of Bhopal killing 3’787 people and injuring many many more. People are dying and suffering from the gas leak ever since.

The late 70’s and early 80’s were a time when governments really had got into environment protection legislation. I perfectly remember the howls of the chemical industries, how all those restraints would ruin their business and how they would send all those jobs to other countries where legislation wasn’t as crippling.  I was hanging around with hubby’s crowd then, all Chemistry students, and being pro environmental protections I got an earful, believe me.

When you get down to the reasons for the disaster, you will find not much has really changed and there are many Bhopals out there still waiting to happen.

Factors leading to this huge gas leak include:

  • The use of hazardous chemicals (MIC) instead of less dangerous ones
  • Storing these chemicals in large tanks instead of over 200 steel drums.
  • Possible corroding material in pipelines
  • Poor maintenance after the plant ceased production in the early 1980s
  • Failure of several safety systems (due to poor maintenance and regulations).
  • Safety systems shut down to save money – including the MIC tank refrigeration system which alone would have prevented the disaster. (read all)

If the environmental standards are going to be lowered in the light of the economic crisis – and they mostly are, along with worker’s rights – the next Bhopal may well be in our own backyard. What’s more, Chernobyl and the Sandoz spill show us that this planet is all we’ve got. Poisoning it will hit us all. You can find a list of other environmental disasters here.