It’s been 30 years since Bhopal gas tragedy. And if there is one lesson that we can draw from what happened then—followed by the long ongoing struggle for justice by the unsuspecting victims—then it has to be caution. After all, it’s only after a disaster takes place that we realise the extent of damage. Industrialisation undoubtedly might have increased the pace of life but it has its share of horrible sides that we are exposed to almost on a daily basis.
Going back to what happened three decades ago, there is indeed little room for respite. Till date, the number of people who died due to the gas leak varies depending on whom we’re referring to. The confusion grows when the number of those who suffered directly or indirectly is taken into account. Against such a sorry scenario, it’s interesting to highlight that the incident took place in a state capital city, not in a fringe locale.
Which brings us back to our city.
It goes without saying that Mumbai is crammed like never before. It’s nothing less than a miracle that despite the population explosion and the ensuing lack of space, we still manage to behave like a metropolitan. In light of the aforementioned tragedy, we wonder whether our city is capable of coping with something similar in case it happens. Although the recent past suggests that Mumbai’s idea of an industrial disaster is restricted to fire outburst but that might not be true across the spectrum. There’s no denial that the air we breathe within the perimeters of this city is substantially polluted. Since agriculture is at its minimum here, we don’t—unfortunately enough—bother about soil pollution either. That leaves us water to worry about. During the monsoon, the rising gutter levels give us an idea about the kind of preparation the civic authorities haven’t done.
Taking all the unwelcoming factors mentioned above, it's worth wondering whether our dear city would be able to cope with an industrial disaster if and when it happens. Remember how Fukushima thought it was prepared for natural series of events when it clearly wasn’t?