Abhinav Khare deep dives into the prelude to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy which was sparked by negligence during its shutdown procedure.
The Bhopal plant has been a bad omen since 1980. In a December 1981 accident, a worker died and two others were injured following a phosgene gas leak. In 1982, in the month of May, UCC sent three American engineers who were asked to check if the safety standards in the Bhopal plant met the UCC standards. But, they revealed that not all was well with the plant. In October 1982, there was another leak at this plant which caused a few health issues like eye irritation and breathlessness among people of surrounding areas. These incidents in fact gave it away that a big disaster was waiting.
In 1983, UCC decided to cut costs for the Bhopal plant and overnight the manpower was reduced to half. In fact, such were the dismal conditions that there was only one man in the control room to monitor the entire plant. An alarm was raised in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly in December 1982, but the then labour minister TS Viyogi assured that there was no threat to Bhopal. The same was ensured by UCIL. In 1983, UCIL had shut down all the principle safety systems because the plant was no longer active. What UCIL forgot was the sixty tons of MIC that was already stored in their tanks. The towers which burned the toxic gases was extinguished to save money on coal and the scrubber cylinder which cleaned any contamination was also deactivated. All experienced professionals had left the plant and those that were there, had lost interest.
The Bhopal plant was supposed to manufacture around 5000 tons of Sevin per year but the maximum production it achieved was of 2704 tons in the year 1981. By 1983, the production fell to 1657 tons which was around 33.1% of its expected capacity. UCIL was making a loss of around Rs 50 million and thus they decided to close operations and put the plant up for sale. But there were no takers. So, they decided to dismantle the plant and ship it to some other country. Losses and dismantling plans thus aggravated the already existing negligence.
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About Abhinav Khare
Abhinav Khare is the CEO of Asianet News Network and also the host of a daily show named Deep Dive with AK. He has a lifetime collection of books and gadgets and has already pinged more than hundred cities around the globe.
He is a tech entrepreneur, who is passionate about policy, technology, economy and philosophy from ancient India. He earned an MS Engineering from the ETH Zurich and an MBA Finance from the London Business School.
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Last Updated 4:55 PM IST