(230c) The Accident in Bhopal: Observations 20 Years Later

Authors: 
Willey, R. J., Northeastern University
Berger, S., American Institute of Chemical Engineers


The most influential process safety accident passed its 20th anniversary on Dec 3, 2004. At an international symposium to mark the event in Kanpur, India during the week of this anniversary, process safety practitioners from around the world assembled to discuss progress in resolving the Bhopal tragedy and in advancing the practice of process safety worldwide. This paper reports the main conclusions from the conference, and provides insight into the Bhopal site as attendees found it in December 2004. Since 1984, many positive steps worldwide have been made in regards to improvements in process safety and protection of personnel within chemical plants and of people in the surrounding communities. However, little progress has been made in decommissioning and decontaminating the Bhopal plant site, now under control of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Many plant chemicals, abandoned there in 1985, were still at the site in 2004, mostly in sub-standard storage conditions. Mitigation recently commenced, but unconfirmed reports of the mitigation methods are concerning. The lesson learned: we all have a responsibility to insure that events which follow a chemical accident reach a proper conclusion; and that no further undue suffering results to the general public and our fellow employees.

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