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I recently watched the Netflix Mini series " The Railway Men. " What a great tribute to the Railway employee who saved thousands of lives during the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. 

The incident, one of the most devastating industrial disasters in history, occurred on the night of December 2-3, 1984, in the city of Bhopal, India. The incident not only left an indelible mark on the affected community but also raised critical questions about industrial safety, corporate responsibility, and the environmental impact of chemical disasters.

The catastrophe unfolded at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant when a lethal gas, methyl isocyanate (MIC), leaked into the atmosphere. The gas quickly spread across the densely populated city, affecting thousands of residents while they slept. The immediate and severe health effects included respiratory problems, blindness, and various other life-threatening complications.

Shortly after midnight on December 3, 1984, about 40 tons of deadly gas leaked out of a pesticide factory in the central Indian city of Bhopal. The highly toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) – used as an intermediary chemical for making pesticides – drifted across the city, exposing nearly half a million residents.

Thousands of people died over the next several days, and it's estimated that many thousands more have died from related health issues since. Survivors who are alive today still struggle with a range of debilitating chronic health issues, from cancer to lung disorders to neurological damage.

Many factors brought about this disaster, but investigators focused on human error. During routine cleaning, a worker failed to insert a device designed to prevent water from entering chemical tanks in case of valve failures. This error caused water to leak through the valve during cleaning, pouring into a chemical tank containing a large volume of methyl isocyanate. The mixing of water and methyl isocyanate created a chemical reaction with enough energy to vent tons of the toxic chemical into the air.

The aftermath of the Bhopal gas tragedy was marked by legal battles, both in India and internationally. The Indian government reached a settlement with Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) in 1989, which saw the company paying $470 million in compensation. However, critics argue that the amount was grossly inadequate, considering the scale of the disaster and the long-term consequences for the affected community.

Union Carbide's responsibility for the incident and its aftermath remained a contentious issue. In 2010, eight individuals, including former employees of UCIL, were convicted in India for their roles in the tragedy. However, activists and survivors continued to advocate for justice and accountability from Union Carbide and its parent company, Dow Chemicals, which acquired Union Carbide in 2001.

Beyond the human tragedy, the Bhopal gas leak had severe environmental repercussions. The MIC gas leak contaminated soil and water in the vicinity of the plant, affecting local ecosystems. Decades later, the site continued to pose environmental risks, and concerns about groundwater contamination persisted. The tragedy underscored the need for stringent regulations and corporate responsibility to prevent similar disasters and protect the environment.

During the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984, there were several railway employees who played crucial roles in helping to save lives. One notable figure is Shiv Narain Gour, a station master at the Bhopal railway station. Gour, along with other railway staff, took quick and decisive action to prevent a tragedy from escalating further.

As the toxic gas spread through the city, Gour and his team at the railway station recognized the severity of the situation. They made swift decisions to divert and stop incoming trains to Bhopal, preventing more people from entering the affected area. Additionally, Gour ensured that trains leaving Bhopal were expedited, aiding in the evacuation of residents to safer locations.

The actions of railway employees, including Shiv Narain Gour, played a crucial role in minimizing further casualties during the Bhopal gas tragedy. Their quick thinking and efforts to manage train traffic helped in the evacuation of a significant number of people, showcasing the importance of coordinated responses in the face of such disasters.


39 years on, five survivors’ organisations addressed a press conference on Thursday, rejoicing the fact that their sustained efforts led to Dow Chemical – the current owners of Union Carbide – appearing in an ongoing criminal case in Bhopal court. This is the first time that an international accused of the gas disaster appeared in the criminal case.

It is now up to the prosecution – the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to ensure that Dow receives the harshest punishment for its crimes of Bhopal, they said, adding that since the CBI works directly under the Prime Minister, they were sending an appeal to him for effective and speedy prosecution of Dow Chemical. 

While talking to media , the gas survivors’ leaders condemned attempts by the Minister and officials of the Department of Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief & Rehabilitation to close down the department. The organisations congratulated the artists and makers of the series “The Railwaymen” for a powerful telling of the story of the disaster and its aftermath.

“We are happy that just before the 39th Anniversary we have succeeded in making a representative of The Dow Chemical Company, USA appear in the Bhopal district court. This is the first time that this corporation that owns Union Carbide and hence its criminal liabilities has made an appearance. It is now up to the prosecution, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to ensure that Dow receives the harshest punishment for its crimes in Bhopal.” said Rashida Bee, President of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh.

One thing that disturbed me was that the factory was in such a built-up urban environment. Surely such potentially dangerous factories should be away from heavily populated areas? 

It is interesting to note that The United Firefighters Union Australia (UFUA) wants regulation and public education campaigns for battery fires, both in vehicles and battery energy storage systems (BESSs), which are used in homes and businesses. 

Lithium-ion battery fires release toxins such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen fluoride and cobalt.

UFUA national secretary Greg McConville said these toxins were particularly dangerous for firefighters because they were absorbed through the skin and clothing could not protect against them.

"[Carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide] both prevent the body using oxygen, and cyanide affects organs that rely on high levels of oxygen, such as the heart and the brain," he said.

"We've already had a situation in Victoria where two firefighters suffered cobalt poisoning after attending an EV fire, and have now been permanently disabled as a result.

Let us hope that these giant battery farms are well sealed...... and located far away from populated areas. After all, as the people of Bhopal know all too well, accidents do happen. 







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