On the 2nd of December, 1984, tragedy struck as the one of the biggest industrial accidents took its toll over the people residing in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India.
The Union Carbide India Limited, a plant producing pesticides, leaked methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas along with other chemicals.
The American owned plant, situated three miles from Bhopal, stated that a valve in the plant’s underground storage tank broke due to a too high of a pressure put on the valve.
BBC reported that a cloud of deadly gas moved in over Bhopal, the home of more than 900 000 people, setting off panic.
In the hours and days that followed, more than 20 000 people sought medical attention while dead animals including cats, dogs, birds and cows, where lying in the streets.
A total of 3 787 deaths were reported due to the poisonous gas leak, while other estimates say that 3 000 people died in the weeks following the leak and another 8 000 died since due to gas-related illnesses and disease.
In 2006 the Government released an affidavit stating that a total of 558 125 injuries were caused. This includes 3 900 severe, permanent disabilities and a total of 38 478 less severe and partial disabilities.
It is believed that the magnitude of the leak was caused by many factors. These include filling large tanks with MIC, way above the recommended level, the reduced maintenance of the plant after it stopped producing MIC in 1984 and the switching off of safety systems in an attempt to reduce costs.
The Scientific Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) was, until 1994, prohibited from publishing their findings of the health effects of the Bhopal gas disaster.
Furthermore, the MIC tank alarms were found to be not working. According to findings, they had not worked in four years. Only a manual back-up system was available and working conditions were not of the best.
Some of the employees at the plant claimed that the pressure valve of the tank had been giving problems for almost a week before the leakage. Instead of fixing the valve, other tanks were used instead.
Also noted was that the refrigeration system was running at 20 degrees Celsius instead of the required 4.5 degree Celsius. This was done to safe on costs.
Many things went wrong at this particular plant, but it was due to a lack of safety and maintenance that so many lost their lives and many more still suffer the side-effects.
There are still polluting compounds that negatively affect the environment and some argue that leakage that still occurs to this day, are contaminating the underground water supply.
Greenpeace conducted studies and showed that crops produced in that area contain a wide range of toxic heavy metals.
In 2009, further studies conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment stated that groundwater was polluted up to 3 kilometers from the plant with pesticide toxins.