5.1 Background to Bhopal
The chemical plant in Bhopal is located to the eastern side of the capital city of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The plant began operations in 1969, producing fertilisers and pesticides for the Indian market. It was part of the Indian government’s initiative to encourage the development of industrial capacity within India rather than relying on imported products. As a consequence, the plant was built and run by Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL), an Indian public company in which Union Carbide, an American company, had a majority shareholding. UCIL had obtained a licence from the Indian government to carry out the production process in India and had a 99-year lease of the site from the regional government of Madhya Pradesh. In 1969 the site was in a relatively unpopulated area of Bhopal zoned for industrial use. However, by the time of the gas leak in 1984 this area had been densely populated by people squatting in unauthorised shanty towns.