Disaster can strike anytime and anywhere. There is really no place in the world that is safe or free from things that can endanger the lives of humans. But there are times when these disasters did not come from nature. Because our technology is continuously evolving, there is an increased possibility that disasters that can happen might be man-made.
Roots of Man-Made Disasters
Most of the man-made disasters that we have witnessed were caused by disregard for the environment and for the safety and for the health of people. The lack of regulations concerning proper disposal of waste is also a leading cause disasters. Developed and poor countries have experienced man-made disasters, but the less developed countries would have fewer capabilities in coping with the problem.
Biggest Man-Made Disasters
Here are some of the worst man-made disasters in recent history:
Bhopal Gas Tragedy
Imagine that you were sleeping peacefully with your family inside your home and then in the middle of the night you suddenly feel a stinging sensation in your eyes and in your lungs. There is poison in the air! You try to rouse your family to flee but when you get outside you see people screaming and dying. That’s the stuff for nightmares, but for thousands in Bhopal, India on December2, 1984 it was not just a bad dream. That was their reality.
On that night the pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide India Limited sprang a leak. That released methyl isocyanine gas and other poisonous gases into the air and it covered a huge area. The problem is that the area surrounding the plant was densely populated. It was estimated than more than 500,000 people were exposed to the gas.
The effects were horrifying. Within hours thousands were dead, even animals within the area were killed. The exact numbers have not been determined but estimates put it from 5,000 to 16,000. That’s just those who were instantly killed by exposure. Tens of thousands more died because of long lasting effects of the chemicals.
On the night of April 26, 1986, one of the reactors in the nuclear power plant that is located in Chernobyl exploded. The explosion released radioactive materials into the atmosphere. The amount of fallout caused by the accident is said to be many times higher than the bombs that were dropped on Japan in World War Two.
Efforts were made right away to move people who were directly affected by the fallout. It was a monumental task considering the vast area that was affected and the number of people that needed to be moved. Overall, more than 300,000 people had to be evacuated and relocated in areas that were not affected by radiation.
Containing and controlling the damage was also a major task and it ate up resources. Thousands of workers had to be mobilized in order to contain the effects of the accident. About 31 of the workers died because of exposure to high levels of radiation. But the long term effects are far more terrible. No one knows for sure how many people were really affected by the nuclear fallout or how many deaths were ultimately caused by it. Estimates place the number of persons affected to be in the hundreds of thousands.
Oil in Kuwait
In 1990 Iraq under Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The world reacted by sending out a force in the Middle East which eventually drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in 1991. As part of the its strategy, the Iraqi forces tried a scorched earth policy as they retreated, but Kuwait being a desert, there were few resources that could be denied to the enemy. What it did have a lot though is oil and the Iraqis tried to take that away.
The Iraqi forces burned more than 600 oil wells in a bid to deny it to anyone else. The fires were started in February 1991. It was very difficult to put out the fire that it actually took until November of that same year to put out the last one. By the time the fires were extinguished, a huge amount of oil have been burned which has caused so much air pollution. The damage wells also polluted the land. It was estimated that the fires caused the loss of more than 6 million barrels of oil on a daily basis.
Overall the environmental impact of the fires was a lot less than what was predicted. The fears of a nuclear winter like scenario did not happen at all. For the Middle East especially Kuwait, it did have some very serious effects. The air pollution was significant. There is also concern that the oil which contaminated the ground would eventually affect the limited water supply of the country.
The Disaster of the Aral Sea
The Aral Sea was really a lake but it was so large that they called it that. It was one of the largest lakes in the world. In the 1960s, the USSR decided to tap into the potential of the rivers that fed the Aral Sea. They started to divert the waters for irrigation projects. The problem was not evident right away but it soon became obvious that there was a problem of catastrophic consequences.
The lake began to dry up and by now the lake has shrunk lost 90% of its original size. It has a tremendous impact on the life of the people living in the area. They lost livelihoods and the life forms living in the lake was lost. There is also the problem of dust being generated by the dried up lake. This disaster has negative consequences for hundreds of miles around the lake.
London’s Killer Fog
Since the start of the industrial revolution, London residents have become familiar with a blanket of smog enveloping their city. But things were a bit different in 1952. The winter for that year was particularly cold and it did bring on the usual smog. But as the cold temperature persisted, residents started to burn more coal. The result was that there was far more air pollution then and it left the city covered in black smoke which persisted for days. The bad air actually killed thousands of people and caused many others to be hospitalized.
The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
One of the biggest fears of environmentalists is the risk posed by having an oil spill at sea. Oil tankers carry a huge amount of oil and in cases where it gets into accident, there is a high chance that it might leak some of the oil that it contains out into the sea. That would destroy the area and kill the animals that might be exposed to it.
The environmentalist’s worst fears were realized in on March 24, 1989, when the Exxon Valdez met an accident and hit the Bligh Reef in Alaska. About 11 million gallons of oil were spilled into the sea. The spill covered a huge area of the coastline. It killed hundreds of thousands of birds and countless other animal life.
The Love Canal
In the 40s, people living in Love Canal, which is near the Niagara Falls noticed a strange smell that was enveloping their town. It didn’t take long for the situation to worsen. They started to notice some strange materials that were starting to seep into their yards. That was also the time when people started to get sick and the cases of miscarriages and birth defects started to shoot up. The reason was soon discovered. It was found out that a local company has buried more than 21,000 tons of industrial waste that was highly toxic under the town.
Pacifica Garbage Patch
Waste and waste disposal is one of the major challenges faced by human society today. There really is no good way for disposing of all the waste that has been produced so far and this problem has some effects on the environment. One of the disasters caused by the lack of proper waste disposal in many places is the Pacific Garbage Patch. This is an area in the Pacifica Ocean that has an unusually high concentration of man-made waste on the surface. It is mainly composed of plastic.
Since plastic is not biodegradable, and it can float any plastic material that finds its way into the ocean will stay afloat. The currents have picked up a great number of these and have caused a huge amount to come together. Estimates as to the size of the patch vary widely and it is not visible from satellite images.
Some people might not see global warming in the same light as the other man-made tragedies we have listed here but it can really qualify. It is man-made after all and when it comes to impact, it probably has the biggest effect on humans.
These are just a few of the disasters that were caused by humans. The list could be a lot longer but these are the ones with the most effect.