Chemical Disaster Risk in India

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Jun 1, 2022, 7:39

India has witnessed several chemical disasters in the past few years, including the Vizag gas leak tragedy and the Bhopal gas tragedy. Such events have highlighted the need for a safeguard against chemical disasters in India. After the incident in Bhopal, to mitigate the Chemical Disaster Risk in India, the government was compelled to release a series of laws that regulate the prescription of safeguards and penalties against chemical disasters.

Chemical Disaster Risk in India Laws Included

Some of these laws include the following:

  • Bhopal Gas leak act, 1985
  • Hazardous waste rules, 1989
  • The Public liability insurance act, 1991
  • National Green tribunal, 2010
  • The environment protection act, 1986
  • Chemical accidents rules, 1996
  • Manufacture, storage, and import of hazardous chemical rules, 1989

Chemical accidents can result from human errors, technical errors, and management errors. Moreover, accidents during transportation, hazardous waste processing, and the effect of natural calamities can also lead to chemical accidents. Hence, it is very crucial that there are very strong laws that can act as a deterrent in curbing Chemical Disaster Risk in India.

Chemical Disaster Risk in India - Status of Disaster Management

The world's worst chemical disaster in history occurred in India in 1984. The Bhopal gas tragedy was the first among the many that demanded attention towards Chemical Disaster Risk in India. The tragedy led to the fatal death of thousands of people when a toxic gas named Methyl Iso Cyanate (MIC) was released into the air due to negligence at the factory. Such chemical disasters lead to loss of life damage to infrastructure and the environment. However, the continued occurrence of chemical disasters even after the one at Bhopal indicates that the country is severely vulnerable to such hazards.

To name a few such disasters, here is a list of major incidents that have occurred in the country -

Chasnala Mining Disaster: The incident occurred in a coal mine in Jharkhand. A piece of faulty equipment led to the ignition of methane gas which further led to an explosion in 1975.

Jaipur Oil Depot Fire: In 2009, a major fire occurred at an oil depot which took almost a week to be brought under control.

Bhilai Steel plant gas leak: In 2014, almost six people were killed in Chattisgarh after a pipeline leaked methane gas in a water pump house.

GAIL pipeline blast: In 2014, a major fire broke out in an underground gas pipeline in Andhra Pradesh, killing several people.

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Chemical Disaster Risk in India - Major Challenges of Chemical Disaster Management Response

Some gaps plague the efforts toward implementation of chemical disaster management in India.

  • Safety in the chemical industry is a major concern, especially in the unorganized sector where workers are hardly aware of the hazards of chemical factories.
  • There is no mainframe database at the national or state level, with a record of chemical entities and their requirements for disaster management.
  • Only a few chemical industrial units in the country are equipped with the necessary state-of-the-art technology.
  • Not enough budgets are kept aside for safety management.

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There are several causes of chemical disasters which can be mitigated to some extent. The installation of legal safeguards against Chemical Disaster Risk in India provides some relief to the country's vulnerability to such disasters.

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FAQs on Chemical Disaster Risk in India

Q:1 What are some of the effects of Chemical Disaster Risk in India?

The occurrence of a chemical disaster can cause immediate health hazards, including skin irritation, burns, and poisoning. Severe chemical disasters can also lead to long-term health issues like allergies. Thus, it is imperative that strong measures be taken to curb Chemical Disaster Risk in India.

Q:2 Is there any way to prevent a Chemical Disaster Risk in India?

With adequate measures, it is possible to eliminate the severe outcomes of a chemical disaster, including mitigating the risk of its occurrence. Deploying in-built safety measures and installing standard operating procedures are some ways to prevent the effects of Chemical Disaster Risk in India.

Q:3 What is the current exposure to the risk of Chemical Disaster Risk in India?

In India, there are about 1861 units that fall under the category of Major Accident Hazard Units. They are spread across 301 districts in 25 states and three union territories, and several hazardous factories in the country. All of these contribute to the Chemical Disaster Risk in India.

Q:4 Elaborate on the Vizag gas leak incident, an example of Chemical Disaster Risk in India.

The Vizag gas leak resulted in the death of several people, including animals and birds. The incident occurred at a polymer plant owned by the LG group from South Korea and is a classic example of Chemical Disaster Risk in India.