Environment & Biodiversity

Tragedy of the Bhopal Gas Leak

The Supreme Court has questioned the government on how the settlement can be reopened when Union Carbide has already paid over $ 470 million to victims of the Bhopal gas disaster, and it has also expressed concern about Rs 50 crore in undisbursed funds.

Why is this in the news?

  • Union Carbide, now a subsidiary of Dow Jones, has failed to meet its obligation to provide just compensation.
  • Around 19 years after compensation was agreed upon, the Indian government filed a curative petition in 2010 seeking more than ten times the amount it gave in 1989 from Dow.

Bhopal Gas Tragedy

  • On the night of December 2, 1984, one of the worst industrial disasters in history began in Bhopal.
  • A nearby Union Carbide pesticide plant began leaking dangerous Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) gas, resulting in the Bhopal Gas tragedy.
  • Within the first few days, an estimated 3,000 people died.
  • Similarly horrifying numbers of those suffering from life-long health issues would become known over time.

The disaster’s health risks

  • Its effects were such that, in addition to killing thousands of people in a short period of time, it caused disease and other long-term issues for many of those who inhaled the gas.
  • Water sources near the factory were deemed unsafe for consumption, and many handpumps were closed.
  • Many Bhopal women’s reproductive health has been impacted to date.
  • Children born to those who were exposed to the gas had congenital health issues.

How did govt respond to the disaster?

  • The incident highlighted the absence of specific laws in India at the time for dealing with such matters. This changed after the Bhopal disaster.
  • The Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 empowered the central government to take appropriate measures and regulate the industrial activity for the sake of environmental and public safety.
  • The Public Liability Insurance Act of 1991 was also passed in order to provide public liability insurance in order to provide immediate relief to those affected by an accident while handling any hazardous substance.
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