A Study on Gas Leak Cases in India: Causes and Effects

Human society is considered a curious one. We always try new things. We made factories, industries, and various other institutions for fulfilling our economic needs. People used to come in these places, i.e. factories and industries and work here to earn the wages, which is essential for survival now a day. These industries are a source of income and survival to millions of families. However, there are some cons related to these industries too. Many of the industries perform hazardous works, and they sometimes meet with an accident causing loss of lives. These accidents may occur naturally or due to careless mistakes or negligence.

Gas Leak: An Overview 

 If we work, it’s natural that mistakes may occur and we may have to face consequence in the form of accidents such as fire, chemical spill, electric shock, inhaling poisonous gases, etc. Accidents may occur anywhere, any time and with anybody.  Here, we are concern about gas leaks in any factory or industry. It may be caused either due to defect in the machine or due to the negligence of workers who might have left any critical machines unattended. In gas leaks, generally, a machine is left unattended, or a defect is caused which results in leakage of gas. These gases are generally poisonous and deadly if inhaled. Various poisonous gases are produced in different factories which may be fatal. Some of them are Sulphur dioxide, Methane, Carbon mono oxide, Methyl Isocyanate (MIC), Styrene, etc. [1]

Various Incidents of Gas Leaks in Factories or Industries 

There have been several cases that are related to gas leak accidents. Some incidents are small, some are big, but all of these accidents affected our lives in one way or the other. Some of these incidents are:

  1. Bhopal gas Tragedy – Many Indians lost their lives in what is viewed as the world’s most exceedingly awful mechanical debacle. It occurred the evening of December 2-3, 1984 at the Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. More than 500,000 individuals were presented to Methyl Isocyanate (MIC) gas and different synthetic substances. The poisonous substance advanced in and around the inhabitations situated close to the plant. Almost 4,000 individuals, including kids, were murdered in the episode. [2]

  2. Delhi Gas Leak Accident – This unfortunate accident took place in 2017 when about 450 children of two schools were hospitalized after inhaling poisonous gases. [3]

  3. Bhilai Steel Plant Gas leaks – Such an accident occurred in 2014 and 2018, taking several lives. In both accidents combined, about 15 people died and 65 people injured due to accidents caused by gas leak and blast due to it. [4]

  4. Vizag Gas leak Disaster – The Visakhapatnam gas spill, likewise alluded to as the Vizag gas spill, was a mechanical mishap that happened at the LG Polymers synthetic plant in the R. R. Venkatapuram town. In a pre-sunrise debacle, in any event, 11 individuals, including two minors, were killed and around 3000 individuals dislodged because of the mishap. The mishap occurred because of styrene gas split. This accident destroyed the natural environment of the region. [5]

    This accident was more dangerous than it seems because it was the time when the world was also fighting with the pandemic of COVID-19 and people were so fearful in moving out of their house because if they move out towards the crowd, there was danger of contamination. At the same time, if they do not escape, it would have cost their lives.

Case Laws dealing the same

  1. M C Mehta & Anr v. Union of India & Ors (1987)[6], prominently known as the Oleum Gas Tragedy was a milestone case throughout the entire existence of ecological laws in India as it was after this case the court made proactive strides towards the improvement of powerful medicinal stages. These incorporate development of a National Green Tribunal for the speedier and restrictive removal of natural law cases, presentation of different arrangements including the Environment Protection Act, 1986, Public Liability Act, 1991, among others.
    This case turned into the crucial ground for the natural statute in India. It was in this very case Hon’ble Justice P N Bhagwati volunteered to extend the ambit of the no shortcoming risk standard. He was careful of the view that India required a law to stay up with the evolving financial standards. He consequently set out that inalienably perilous ventures had a non-delegable obligation to guarantee that no mischief results from the action embraced. Further such ventures would be obligated to make up for such damage. By doing so the court had essentially rigidified the rule of severe risk to prohibit any special cases to get away from the obligation.

  2. Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action v. Association of India (1996)  [7]

    The point of reference for absolute liability and polluter pays guideline were once more maintained for this situation. Here, the Sulphuric Acid plant and different enterprises were made subject to remunerate the casualties for not following legitimate wellbeing measures while discarding harmful material from the businesses.

  3. Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India (Bhopal Gas Tragedy Case) (1990) [8]

    In this case, the Supreme Court chose to end lawful procedures by finishing up the settlement of cases for 470 million US dollars. The court saw that the earnest requirement for fiscal alleviation eclipsed the necessities of legitimate standard.

Reasons

No technology is a hundred percent safe, and accidents can occur anytime. The reasons for such accidents may be divided into two categories, i.e. accidents involving human intervention and accidents due to natural causes. Some of the reasons for such accidents are as follows:

  1. Non- human intervention (Natural causes) – There are some accidents which are caused, even though we take utmost care to prevent it. We cannot control nature or its phenomenon, and hence, we have no control over such accidents. The only measure we can take in such a situation is to mitigate the losses. These accidents may be generally caused by earthquakes, flood, heavy lightning, etc. These accidents may cause harm to the structure of the building and thereby, causing different types of accidents.

  2. Human intervention – These are those accidents which are caused due to human intervention and such accidents could be prevented. Some of those reasons are:
  • Lack of safety measures – This is one of the most important reasons behind any accident. Industries and factories spend a huge amount of money on the structure, but they do not spend much on safety measures. Most of the workers are not provided with safety kit, rubber gloves, eyeglasses, etc., exposing them to a great danger of their lives. During gas leak accidents, it is often seen amongst casualties that they were not using masks, which might have saved their lives.

  • Lack of technology – It is another reason for gas leak accidents. Once a machine is brought, owners do not want to spend any extra penny on those machines. They are ignorant about upgrading their technology. Sometimes, they do not upgrade their machines, and because of that, they do not get any defect, causing great danger. They also do not invest in technology related to exhausting poisonous gases efficiently and safely.

  • Lack of skills – In some occasions, recruiters hires inexperienced workers and engineers, who have no or little knowledge of operating machines and handling emergency situation. It is because of lack of skill they do not operate machines properly, thereby, resulting in accidents and casualties.

  • Negligence/ Carelessness – It is one of the main reason for accidents. It is often seen that workers or engineers left the machines unattended and they malfunctioned to cause fatal accidents. Many times exhaust stop working, and because of it, the internal temperature of machines rises and after an extent, they explode. It results in escaping of deadly gases.

Impact of Accidents

These accidents have an adverse impact on all of our lives, either directly or indirectly. Some of the impacts are so deep that even time seems to unable to heal them. This study of impact can be divided into two categories:

  1. Immediate impact – The immediate effect mainly includes burns, deformities, accidents and even deaths. A lot of poisonous, deadly or harmful gases may escape, endangering our lives. Some of these gases may be so acidic, that if humans got in contact with them, it might result in severe burn injury or even in death in some cases.

  2. Long term impact
  • Pollution – This is one of the major consequences of such accidents. It is seen that once such an accident occurs, gases do escape in the environment, and they remain in the environment for a very long time. They may not be that harmful, but they do affect our lives adversely. They cause air pollution as well as water pollution.

  • Child with abnormalities – It is also seen that these gases are harmful to living creatures. They also cause harm to unborn children as well as newborn babies, because they have less immunity. Children are also getting diseased as well as they are also suffering from many abnormalities in their body which are making their lives harder.

  • Migration – It is both immediate as well as long term impact. Hundreds and thousands of people are forced to leave their home and live like migrated people with no proper food and other necessities. This situation got even worse after the pandemic of COVID-19, where people are already facing problems, and a bundle of problems adds to the already existing problems.

Suggestions

The Government, as well as industries, is taking this matter in cognizance and they are working to ensure that such accidents do not occur in future. Some of these suggestions may be considered while ensuring maximum safety of the workers:

  1. The utmost important measure that should be taken is to ensure maximum security of workers as well as machines. Proper kits must be given to workers. Machines should be inspected for any defect regularly.

  2. It must be ensured that industries must be set up outside the village or town, and away from direct water sources, so that, in case, any accidents occur it does not cause much harm.

  3. Workers and engineers must be properly trained, and there must be provision for drills regarding emergency in the factories. It might be helpful in case of any accident because it is seen that many of the casualty occurs because workers move out of the factory in an unplanned way.

  4. Government laws must be appropriately implemented and strictly so that, a worker is well equipped with insurance and compensation coverage.

Conclusion

No technology is a hundred percent safe or completely reliable. It is because of the same, no one can guarantee that accidents will not occur. We can also not shutdown industries or factories because they are an important part of our life. Our wages depend on them. In one way, our food, as well as our comfort, is being manufactured in those industries. The only thing we can do is to maximize the safety features so that it can be ensured that even if industries meet an accident, no loss of lives is caused.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) What is the impact of gas leaks accidents? Explain regarding Visakhapatnam Gas Leak Accidents? Are there any long term effect?

2) Explain some of the accidents related to gas leaks? 

3) What are the reasons behind Gas Leaks Accidents? Suggest some ways to avoid such accidents?

4) Are there any cases dealing with the same issue? Explain one or two cases.  

References

[1] R.k.Singh, Environmental Laws in India, Jaipur Publishing House

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/

[3] https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-its-not-just-vizag-and-bhopal-past-major-gas-leaks-in-india/352243

[4] https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-its-not-just-vizag-and-bhopal-past-major-gas-leaks-in-india/352243

[5] https://kanooniyat.com/2020/06/vizag-gas-leak-reevaluating-environmental-laws-with-respect-to-absolute-liability/&https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/11-killed-in-pre-dawn-disaster-as-gas-leaks-at-vizag-plant/articleshow/75612393.cms

[6] 1987 AIR 1086

[7] AIR 1996 SC 1446

[8] 1990 AIR 273

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