Chernobyl is one of the greatest environmental disasters of all time. On April 26, 1986, one of the reactors of the Chernobyl power plant in Ukraine exploded, resulting in a nuclear meltdown that sent massive amounts of radiation into the atmosphere.
The Bhopal Gas tragedy is one of the India’s worst environmental disasters. Around midnight on December 2, 1984, an accident at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal resulted in 45 tonnes of poisonous methyl isocyanate escaping from the facility. Thousands of people died within hours.
KUWAITI OIL FIRES
The end of the Gulf War in 1991 did not signal the end of all troubles. As the war drew to a close, Saddam Hussein sent men to blow up Kuwaiti oil wells. Approximately 600 were set ablaze , and the fires burned for seven months. The Gulf was covered completely in poisonous smoke, soot and ash.
For years Love Canal, located near the Niagara Falls, in the US was a developed and well-settled neighbourhood with hundreds of houses and a school. But by 1978 thousands of tonnes of toxic industrial waste that had been buried underground in the 1940s and 50s had begun to bubble up into backyards and cellars. The inhabitants were compelled to sell their houses and relocate.
THE EXXON VALDEZ
One of the worst environmental disasters at sea has been that of Exxon Valdez, the oil tanker that ran aground on Bligh Reef in Alaskan waters on March 24, 1989. Millions of gallons of oil spilled out into the cold waters and eventually spread to an almost 500 mile distance. Thousands of birds, fish and other sea life perished as a result of the spill.
TOKAIMURA NUCLEAR PLANT
The Tokaimura disaster is Japan’s worst nuclear accident and happened at a uranium-processing facility north-east of Tokyo on September 30, 1999. Three workers at the plant improperly mixed a uranium solution with disastrous consequences. Hundreds of workers were affected by the resultant radiation.
THE ARAL SEA
The Aral Sea, situated between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, was once the fourth largest lake on earth. However, it has now shrunk to 90% of its original size because of its source waterways being diverted for various Soviet irrigation projects. Over time it has been reduced to a massive desert.
SEVESCO DIOXIN CLOUD
An explosion at a chemical plant near Seveso, north of Milan in Italy, on July 10, 1976 released a thick, white cloud of dioxin that quickly settled on the town. Once the ill effects began to be felt by the residents, the town had to be evacuated.
Industrial poisoning of Minamata Bay, located on a southwesterly island in Japan, due to pollution from a local industrial unit caused behavioural changes in animals, particularly cats. By 1956, humans were being afflicted too, with what soon became known as the Minamata disease. Symptoms of the disease included convulsions, slurred speech and uncontrollable limb movements.
THREE MILE ISLAND
The Three Mile Island nuclear reactor near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in the US partially melted down on March 28, 1979. Although there were no casualties, this is still considered one of America’s worst nuclear accidents.
This fire at an Iraqi sulfur plant at Al-Mishraq in 2003 burned for about a month releasing sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. Sulfur dioxide kills people by causing respiratory problems and also creates acid rain which destroys crops.
BP OIL SPILL
The Deepwater Horizon or BP Oil Spill of April 2010 is the largest accidential marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. This oil spill was caused by an explosion of an oil well at a drilling platform operated by British Petroleum (BP) in the Gulf of Mexico. The explosion killed 11 people working on the platform and injured 17 others and followed for three months releasing 4.9 million barrels of oil in the surrounding area. The oil caused extensive damage to the coast along the Gulf. It affected the livelihood of hundreds of shrimp farmers and fishermen along the coast of US states of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and especially Louisiana. Hundreds of marine species were also killed or deformed.