Bhopal Disaster

Topics: Bhopal disaster, Union Carbide, Dow Chemical Company Pages: 5 (1747 words) Published: May 9, 2013

When operating a dangerous business such as producing chemicals, tragedies are often unforeseeable. In public relations, being prepared for all scenarios is a constant challenge. The challenges can be found working in collaborate with different cultures. However, when facing those challenges head on, it is imperative that each case is handled in the best possible way. In Union Carbide, thousands of lives were lost. The lives lost could’ve have been prevented. But it is not to place blame on one entity of the business, but to handle the situation respectively and efficiently. There will be many examples on how the deaths of the employees could’ve have been minimized if the precautions were enforced.

On December 3, 1984, an explosion occurred at the Union Carbide India Ltd pesticide plant. The plant was located in Bhopal, India. It was partly run by the parent corporation in Danbury, Connecticut. In early years, the plant was managed by employees from Connecticut. It provided protection from damage to crops, losses in food storage, and toxic mold growth in food supplies which would cause loss of life from starvation and food poisoning. Famine in India during the 1980’s had indebted farmers and squashed expected growth in demand (Pg.1, 2001 Fortun). The Bhopal plant supplied pesticides and served a market anticipated to expand. The plant expanded. Union Carbide India Ltd was one of India’s largest firms. The year the incident occurred; there were 14 plants and over 9,000 employees (Steiner 2009). Initially, the key important chemical methyl isocyanate (MIC) was imported. It was shipped into India. India was in search of self- sufficiency and didn’t want any inclination of subjugation. The Indian government pressured Union Carbide to stop importing the chemical, claiming that it would be more efficient if the chemical could be made at the plant (Weir, 1987). Due to the pressure from the government, management was turned over to Indian Government and Union Carbide India Ltd no longer directly reported to Union Carbide. A permit was issued from the Ministry of New Delhi in 1975 which would permit the Bhopal plant to build MIC. Plenty of precaution methods were put in place two months prior due to the dangers of the chemical. This required relocation in an industrial zone 15 miles away. M.N Buch of Bhopal’s administrator tried to move the plant and convert it to housing and light commercial use. This failed for unknown reasons and Buch was transferred elsewhere. There were many incidents leading up to the horrific event. In 1980 MIC was being made in Bhopal. Precautions were taken in preparation for any uncontrolled incidents. In the five years of preparation for building the MIC portion of the plant, it looked like enough thought went into design and construction of the building and the surrounding area. This area was surrounded by densely populated shantytowns, and mainly impoverished, unemployed people (Steiner, 2009). In 1981 a phosgene leak killed one worker. A crusading Indian journalist wrote articles suggesting the plant was a danger to the population. Nothing was done. There was a second leak a year later and surrounding neighborhoods were forced to evacuate. Although inspections were performed by the State Department of Labor, the 15 factory inspectors covering 8, 000 plants provided a more than lax environment (Jasanoff, 1986). The day of the tragedy, one of the three storage tanks in the MIC unit sat filled with 11, 290 gallons of the chemical. The capacity of the tank was 15,000 gallons. The purpose of the storage tanks was to take MIC made to a different place of the plant where it would later be made into the Sevin or Temik in the pesticide section. At 9:30 p.m. a supervisor ordered an employee Khan, to unclog four filter valves near the MIC production area by rinsing them out with water. However, the employee neglected to insert the slip bind. This device prevents the water from...
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