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Bhopal Gas tragedy toxic waste may be shipped out
NEW DELHI: The Group of Ministers on the Bhopal Gas tragedy have abandoned the plan to burn down 350 tonnes of toxic industrial waste at a privately run facility at Pithampur, some 300 km from Bhopal.
Intense pressure from local communities, civil society and elected representatives, and recommendation by Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh resulted in the decision to abandon the idea.
The GoM is now considering four possible options for disposing the waste. It could be co-incinerated in a cement kiln, or buried at the site of the Union Carbide factory, or disposed at the DRDO hazard facility in Nagpur, or shipped out to the EU or some other country that was willing to accept it.
Civil society groups have maintained that the waste can be shipped out and that there are some countries that are willing to accept it. Ramesh said that the Central Pollution Control Board will get in touch with these organisations to pursue this possibility. Ramesh said that the technical committee would will study these options and would submit a report in two months on the viability of the suggested options for waste disposal.
The technical committee had been formed to undertake a peer review of reports by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), Hyderabad and the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad on the level of contamination at the Union Carbide factory and surrounding in Bhopal.
Ramesh, who heads the oversight committee for environmental remediation , had visited the Common Transport Storage and Disposal Facility at Pithampur in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh in July. Protests were mounted against incinerating the toxic waste at Pithampur by the two villages adjoining the Hyderabad-based Ramky's Transport Storage and Disposal Facility. Local elected representatives and the public fear over contamination of the water supply of Indore, were other factors that prompted Ramesh to recommend abandoning the plan to incinerate the waste at the Pithampur facility.
The GoM accepted the recommendation of the peer review committee for further studies on the ground water contamination. The review has contested the NEERI study . It suggested revalidation of the study's conclusions through independent measurements by a third party identified and nominated by the government. On the question of a memorial, the GoM appears to have not taken a final decision. While survivor organisations and the Madhya Pradesh government are of the view that a memorial must have something that reminds people of what happened, many members of the GoM were of the view that a memorial should mark a "reawakening".
(Courtesy: The Economic Times; March 26, 2011)