View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Industrial accidents

Bhopal is one of those names that has gone down in the annals of the 20th century, comparable with Seveso and Chernobyl. Bhopal, a city in India, hosted a plant, owned by the Union Carbide company of the USA. On December 3rd, 1984, it accidentally released methyl-isocyanate into the environment. As a result, 25,000 people are thought to have died since. Many others have suffered symptoms of poisoning, not just due to MIC, but other chemicals as well. A BBC report this evening showed people with birth defects and growth retardation, to mention but two symptoms. Union Carbide abandoned the plant, leaving its toxic chemicals to seep into the environment. Compensation of £700 was paid to victims, a derisory sum by 1984 standards. Wikipedia has an excellent article on Bhopal, from which the image (left) has been linked.

Union Carbide showed a callous disregard for the safety of the community in which it operated a plant, and was never brought to account over the 1984 disaster. UC plainly demonstrates that it ranks amongst those in the developed world who abuse the developing world to get rich quick over the back of the poor, irrespective of the consequences. Big money talked in this case, and the poor of India paid the price.

Seveso, you ask? Go back 8 years before Bhopal and move a few thousand miles to the northwest, to northern Italy. A poorly monitored industrial chemical process (left, image courtesy Wikipedia) goes out of control, and a huge quantity of dioxins, the most poisonous chemicals known to (and made by) man is released. The outcome is as yet not known, even now, 33 years later. No humans have died, but animal and plant life did suffer.

Chernobyl? The nuclear reactor (left) that exploded in present-day Ukraine, north of Kiev in April 1986. Somebody decided to run an experiment by not controlling the nuclear processes in a reactor. Result: a fire and a release of radio-activity that reached Scotland.

These three names rank among the worst industrial accidents of the 20th century, with far-reaching consequences. All could have been prevented, and in the latter two cases, lessons appear to have been learnt. Not in the case of Bhopal, as I have outlined in my comment.

No comments:

Post a Comment