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  • 1. Bhopal gas tragedy : Saga of The Divided World Prepared by: Vijita S Aggarwal Asso. Professor, University School of Management Studies GGS Indraprastha University Delhi, India
  • 2. Structure of the Presentation
    • Industrial scenario in developing countries and double standards of transnational companies
    • Bhopal Gas Tragedy
    • Union Carbide Corporation
    • Equipment and Safety Regulations/Norms
    • UCC Approach – Key Problems
    • Safety Measures in UCC plants - the USA and India
    • Legal Action Against Union Carbide
    • Conclusion
    • Lessons Learnt
  • 3. Double Standards of Transnational Companies
    • Different labour norms in its overseas operations
    • Exploiting the weak legal system in host country
    • Non-disclosure or compliance of environment policy
    • Weak safety norms and improper implementation
    • Exporting chemical wastes to other countries
    The companies use differing standards in Developed and Developing countries.
  • 4. Union Carbide Corporation
    • Started in 1969 in Bhopal, situated at the northern edge of Bhopal city.
    • Phosgene, Monomethlyamine, Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) and the pesticide Carbaryl, also known as Sevin were manufactured here.
    • Gas leakage from its facility in 1984.
    • Taken over by DOW Chemicals in 2001.
    • DOW refused Union Carbide’s Liabilities in Bhopal, India.
    • The company still operates under the ownership of Dow Chemicals and still states on its website that the Bhopal disaster was "cause by deliberate sabotage".
  • 5. Bhopal Gas Tragedy – Sad Statistics
    • Happened in the night of 2 nd & 3 rd December 1984 when a pesticide plant of Union Carbide India Limited’s (UCIL) spewed about forty to forty five tons of highly lethal MIC gas in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India.
    • One of the worst industrial disaster in human history
    • Among people, who were exposed to the gas:
      • 25,000 people died
      • 558,125 injured
      • 120,000 continue to suffer devastating health effects
  • 6. Toxic Materials in Soil and Water
  • 7. Gas Vent Scrubber Gas Vent Scrubber Stack
  • 8. Haphazard Dumping of Hazardous Material
  • 9. Legal Hassle – 1984 to Till date
    • The cases are still pending in the district court of United States, and also in the District Court of Bhopal, India, on the employees, including Warren Anderson who was CEO of UCC at the time of the disaster.
    • Seven ex-employees, including the former UCIL chairman, were convicted in Bhopal of causing death by negligence and sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of about $2,000 each, the maximum punishment allowed by law in June 2010.
    • One former employee who was also convicted died before judgment was passed.
  • 10. Equipment and Safety Regulations/Norms
    • UCC had different operational practices such as use of a more dangerous pesticide manufacturing method, large-scale Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) storage, plant location close to a densely populated area, undersized safety devices, and the dependence on manual operations in developing countries whereas better and safer measures were adopted for operating at home.
    • It did not equip the plant with the safety mechanisms to deal with accidents. UCC was aware that some of the technology it transferred was not proven, and entailed operational and safety risks.
    • It failed to set up any comprehensive emergency plan or system in Bhopal to warn local communities about leaks, even though it had such a plan in place in the USA.
  • 11. UCC Approach – Key Problems
    • The various problems in the plant that were ignored:
    • The alarms of MIC tank had not worked since past four years
    • Only single manual back-up system as compared to USA where four-stage system was used
    • The flare tower and the vent gas scrubber had been out of service for five months before the disaster due to which flare tower could only hold a quarter of the gas that leaked during the incidence
    • The refrigeration system was idle and the MIC was kept at 20 degrees Celsius, not the 4.5 degrees as suggested by the manual
    • Due to absence of Slip-bound plates, the water leaked into the MIC tanks from pipes being cleaned
    • Faulty valves were not installed by the operators
    • the MIC tank pressure gauge was not functioning properly for roughly a week before the accident.
    • On the night shift, no maintenance supervisor was in place to record instrument readings.
  • 12. Safety Measures in UCC Plants - the USA and India UCC plant in West Virginia was better equipped compared to the plant in Bhopal. There were a number of critical differences in levels of design and operations of the Bhopal and Institute plants. Institute, West Virginia, USA Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India Capacity High production of MIC matched with high processing capacity. MIC not stored for long periods of time. High production capacity of MIC but low processing capacity. MIC stored in large quantities for long periods of time. Emergency scrubbers MIC storage tank equipped with emergency scrubbers (to neutralize any escaping MIC) designed to operate under emergency conditions. No emergency caustic scrubber to neutralize any MIC leak. Computerized monitoring Computerized monitoring of instruments (gauges, alarms, etc) and processes to support visual observation. No computerized monitoring of instruments and processes. Relied solely on manual observation. Cooling system MIC field storage tanks used a cooling system based on chloroform (inert and nonreactive with MIC). MIC tanks used a cooling system based on brine (highly reactive with MIC). Refrigeration unit Refrigeration unit to control temperature in the tanks was never turned off. Refrigeration unit had been turned off since June 1984. Nitrogen pressure MIC was always maintained under nitrogen pressure. MIC tanks had not been under nitrogen pressure since October 1984.
  • 13. Safety Measures in UCC plants - the USA and India Institute, West Virginia, USA Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India Emergency plan An elaborate four-stage emergency plan to deal with toxic releases, fires, etc, including a general public alert linked to community police, river and rail traffic and local radio stations. Various emergency broadcast systems in place to alert and disseminate appropriate information to the public. No system to inform public authorities or the people living adjacent to the plant. No emergency plan shared with communities living adjacent to the plant; no system to disseminate information regarding emergency to the public with the exception of a loud siren. Maintenance programme A maintenance programme to determine and evaluate replacement frequency for valves and instrumentation and alarm systems. Weekly review of safety valves and reviews and maintenance recorded extensively. No evidence of an effective instrument maintenance programme. Safety valve testing programme largely ineffective and no proper records maintained of reviews of instruments, valves and alarm systems, etc. Lab analysis A lab analysis of MIC was conducted to test quality and check for contamination prior to storage, processing or distribution. No lab analysis of quality was undertaken. MIC stored for long periods without testing for contamination. Training Extensive employee training programme to ensure high level of training and information among all employees of normal and emergency procedures. Operators put in charge without sufficient training. Protective equipment Extensive provision of appropriate personal protective equipment to employees including protective clothing, air respirators, etc. Personal protective gear and breathing air equipment not easily accessible, inadequate and of poor quality.
  • 14. Legal Action Against Union Carbide
    • December 1984: Legal proceedings were started against UCC, the United States and Indian governments, local Bhopal authorities.
    • March 1985: Government of India passed the Bhopal Gas Leak Act in March 1985, making the GOI to act as the legal representative for victims of the disaster that helped in leading to the beginning of legal proceedings.
    • 1985: The US government called for inquiry into the Bhopal disaster, by Henry Waxman, a Californian Democrat.
    • March 1986: UCC offered a settlement figure, providing a fund for Bhopal victims of between $500–600 million over a period of 20 years
    • May 1986: US District Court transferred the litigation to Indian courts from US.
  • 15. Legal action against Union Carbide
    • 1988: US$ 350 million was claimed by The Government of India from UCC.
    • November 1988: Indian Supreme Court told both sides to come to an agreement and "start with a clean slate".
    • 1989: UCC agreed to pay US$ 470 million for damages caused in the Bhopal disaster.
    • October 2003: The Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department awarded the compensation to 554,895 people for injuries received and 15,310 survivors of those killed.
    • June 2010: 7 ex-employees of the company were sentenced to two years imprisonment and fined Rs. 1 lakh approx 2000$.
  • 16. Conclusion
    • All the disasters that occurred in developed countries were neither due to the managerial operations nor due to the safety regulations. However these were the biggest component in the Bhopal gas tragedy as the  management gave only lip service to process and personnel safety and the governments did not ensure compliance with the regulations.  
    • There is a need for the improvements in method of safety. New legislation, stricter enforcement and personnel training should be in place.
    • Elementary R&D is needed in the causes of accidents and in industrialized processes used in the chemical process industries.
    • All the stakeholders need to play their part in building a safety culture.
  • 17. Lessons Learnt
    • National governments and international agencies should focus on widely applicable techniques for corporate responsibility and accident prevention as much in the developing world context as in advanced industrial nations .
    • Local governments clearly cannot allow industrial facilities to be situated within urban areas, regardless of the evolution of land use over time.
    • Industry and government need to bring proper financial support to local communities so they can provide medical and other necessary services to reduce morbidity, mortality and material loss in the case of industrial accidents.
    • Existing public health infrastructure needs to be taken into account when hazardous industries choose sites for manufacturing plants.
  • 18. Lessons Learnt
    • Local governments clearly cannot allow industrial facilities to be situated within urban areas, regardless of the evolution of land use over time.
    • Industry and government need to bring proper financial support to local communities so they can provide medical and other necessary services to reduce morbidity, mortality and material loss in the case of industrial accidents.
    • Existing public health infrastructure needs to be taken into account when hazardous industries choose sites for manufacturing plants.
  • 19. Lessons Learnt
    • Legislation and regulation needs to evolve in active consultation with all stakeholders laying emphasis on emerging requirements, and increasing standards with appropriate emphasis on actual functioning of safety mechanisms and inculcation of an active safety culture.
    • Multinationals, by virtue of their global purpose, organization, and resources, should be treated as single, monolithic agents, rather than as a network of discrete, non- interdependent units.
  • 20.