Case Study Analysis: Union Carbide Corporation and Bhopal
A single slip in action may cause lasting sorrow. A slight mistake in operation at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal of India causes a lot of deaths and injuries. What a tragedy it is. Undoubtedly, there must be something wrong with the management of the plant.
In addition to the plant, the governments related in India that issued permits and provided incentives for the plant, Bhopal community officials who permitted slum dwellers to move near the plant in illegal settlements, Indian environmental and safety inspectors should also be responsible for this. The governments related in India issued permits because people need jobs, or people would starve to death. This was one reason in my opinion. Soft money from Union Carbide plant may be another reason for issuing permits. It was clearly that the governments in America would not issue a permit to Union Carbide plant under such circumstances, which lacked of severe environmental standards and permitted slum dwellers to live near the plant and so on. Such actions were the fuses leading to more deaths. Before the major gas leakage from the MCI unit on December 3, 1984, some people were killed because of phosgene gas leakage. However, no one took it seriously in spite of the report by media. One of the reasons that people ignore this was because people didn¡¦t know the potential danger of the chemical plant. The other reason was that there are not enough environmental inspectors to cover so many plants in India. Besides, those inspectors had a record of loose enforcement. Consequently, danger emerged just as the saying goes ¡§Nothing comes of nothing.¡¨
As for the management of Union Carbide¡¦s Bhopal plant, some steps indeed needed to be improved. Let us take a look at the whole process of the gas leak and see what actions can be improved. The first mistake in my opinion was that R. Khan, an operator in the MIC complex, neglected to insert a slip blind above the point of water entry. This omission violated instructions in the MIC processing manual, the technical manual that set forth procedures established by the chemical engineers who set up the plant. Obviously, the plant failed to emphasize the importance of obeying the processing manual and the danger of disobeying ...
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...nk he should be responsible for the whole case. In other words, he should resign for the whole incident.
Generally speaking, the legal system didn¡¦t play a very active role in this case. First of all, the India government could do more on digging the truth of the gas leak out and set a more strict standard to regulate such dangerous plants in case that another crisis. Second, I didn¡¦t see any one who worked in the Union Carbide¡¦s Bhopal plant should be responsible for that tragedy. Does it mean that all that the India court wanted was money or it just wanted to reduce trial and subsequent appeals because it might have taken more than twenty years?
To sum up, Union Carbide handled the crisis cleverly but not well enough because it knew what would the India government and court react to this incident. Union Carbide controlled the whole situation and took lead of the lawsuits itself. The India government and court didn¡¦t help those victims as much as they needed instead. The function of government, designed to protect its people, disappeared in this case.
¡§Union Carbide Corporation And Bhopal,¡¨ in Steiner and Steiner, pp.147-161.
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