As the BP/Gulf of Mexico oil spill dominates the American media, the rest of world has been noting a closure, of sorts, on the Bhopal disaster of 1984. Seven former Union Carbide executives have been sentenced to 2 years jail each over the disaster. The CEO, Warren Anderson, showed an appalling lack corporate leadership by leaving India and not facing the charges laid against him in India.
The disaster exposed half a million people to methyl isocyanate, killed almost 4,000 people, and changed the lives of millions. These changes continue today with birth defects, health problems and contaminated land.
Some media have noted a similarity in corporate responses to initial investigations and inquiries but there are more important lessons involving safety, corporate responsibility and social policy from the Bhopal legacy that should resonate with those American communities affected by the Gulf of Mexico spill. The mishandling of the aftermath of the Bhopal disaster has exacerbated the horror of that day which can accurately but heartlessly be described as a “process safety failure”.
These issues are tellingly described and reported in a highly-recommended series of radio programs produced by Radio Netherlands and broadcast on 19 June 2010.