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Ecological Catastrophes of the 20th Century

Written by Jia Chhabra and Kalash Pandey

Edited by: Ailiya Treesa Philips



The 20th century is one of the eras that has experienced the most significant changes and transformations. This century is the deadliest one the world has experienced. It is not only because of the history of wars but various biological, geophysical, climatological, meteorological and hydrological disasters.


Speaking of disasters, in March and April 1991 molten rock rising towards the surface from more than 20 miles (32 kilometers) beneath Pinatubo triggered small earthquakes and caused powerful steam explosions that blasted three craters on the north flank of the volcano. Mount Pinatubo located in some provinces of the Philippines has had 6 periods of activity with large explosive eruptions prior to the massive 1991 hit, which affected more than 730 lives in one way or the other. Agriculture was highly disrupted leading to substantial crises. After being titled as the second-largest volcanic eruption of the century, the Pinatubo range has been relatively quiet since then.


Another hit on the Earth that left humanity appalled was the China Floods.

The China Floods or the 1931 Yangtze–Huai River floods occurred from June to August hitting major Wuhan and Nanjing. Poor arrangement for the approaching monsoon was the major cause of the calamity. The flooding impacted major croplands, affected millions across the county and cost around 4,00,000 human lives. Cholera, malaria, dysentery and schistosomiasis are few diseases that swept along the mishap.


But it is not only nature that hits humanity leaving it aghast. Major deaths during the century were caused by mishaps by us, earthlings.


Nuclear energy has been proven to produce high electricity without damaging the atmosphere and environment. But how much of this is true? Nuclear power has no place in safety. It is both dangerous and expensive. The 1986 accident proves this.

On 26 April 1968, the number 4 reactor in Chernobyl became a cause of death of hundreds and is still affecting the newborns in the area.


Over 25 years ago, Bhopal was choking on fumes of MIC, Methyl Isocyanate, an extremely toxic gas used to manufacture pesticides and rubber. The Bhopal Tragedy happened on the night of 2 December 1984 at the UNIC (Union Carbide India Limited). The disaster happened because water entered a tank containing Methyl isocyanate. This caused a chemical reaction which resulted in the buildup of much Carbon dioxide, among other things. The resulting reaction increased the temperature inside the tank to reach over 200 °C (392 °F). The person to blame this for is Warren Anderson. He was charged with culpable homicide. Yet, just four days after the tragedy, Anderson flew out of Bhopal on the official plane of Arjun Singh. The gas tragedy took the lives of 15000 souls and affected more than 600000 workers. The gas leak is still responsible for major health issues of people in Bhopal. It was the world’s worst industrial disaster.


Apart from this, mankind has suffered from many mammoth disasters, yellow river floods, Uttarakhand forest fires and earthquakes, boxing tsunami, etc. Even after vividly remembering the outcomes and results of these we continue to sustain the mistakes we made in the past. Deforestation, mismanagement of river system, terrorism, war, arson, civil attacks, negligence still continues. When would we understand the importance of unity, chivalry, love between nations, reassurance, trust and faith?

Only when we practice it.


We are the youth and it is our responsibility to protect our mother earth and our fellow earthlings.





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