Learning from Disaster: Risk Management after Bhopal

Learning from Disaster: Risk Management after Bhopal

Learning from Disaster: Risk Management after Bhopal

Learning from Disaster: Risk Management after Bhopal

Excerpt

The lethal gas leak that occurred at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India on the night of December 3, 1984 may well be the most extensively studied industrial disaster in history. In the intervening years, dozens of books and articles, as well as countless conference and workshop proceedings, have grappled with the questions of what happened in Bhopal that night and why. What, then, is the reason for adding still another contribution to this voluminous literature? What new illumination does this book hope to provide?

We believe that this book stands in a fundamentally different relationship to the events in Bhopal from most previous reports and analyses. While other commentators focused largely on the causes of the tragedy, our object is to look most critically at its consequences. Surveying the changes in law and public policy that followed Bhopal, the contributors to this volume ask what we and our institutions have learned of lasting value from the mistakes of commission and omission that led to the disaster. Are modern societies any better prepared today than they were in 1984 to manage the risks of hazardous technologies, especially those that are transferred across national boundaries? Could an accident like the one at Bhopal happen again-- in India, in the United States, in Europe? And if the same toxic cloud were to strike Bhopal once more, would the consequences be as dire, the agony for the victims as protracted and inconclusive?

The chapters in this volume address these questions by examining the impact of Bhopal on both national and international policymaking. In a series of essays written from different disciplinary perspectives--including law, political science, sociology, policy studies and public administration--the authors explore the capacity of varied social actors to learn from an event whose causes were as complex and multiply layered as its consequences. Their essays ask how learning takes place among individuals and in institutions, in legal systems and in administrative agencies, in the "low politics" of unorganized and . . .

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