Bhopal Gas tragedy: Possibility of UN assessment of contamination spread

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
  • Updated: Feb 24, 2015 15:46 IST

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has indicated possibility of undertaking a comprehensive scientific assessment of contamination due to the toxic waste left in the abandoned Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, gas survivors’ organisations have said.

In December 1984, methyl iso-cyanate gas leaked from the Union Carbide factory, killing hundreds and maiming thousands for life.

However, the UNEP would require formal request from the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) in order to consider the possibility. In this context, representatives of five gas survivors’ organisations met the MoEF minister Prakash Javdekar during his recent visit to Bhopal.

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, the representatives said that the minister has promised a response in the matter within 15 days.

Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group of Information said that supporters of gas survivors in United States (International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal) had written to the officials in UNEP for carrying out a scientific assessment on the depth and spread of different contaminants in and around the abandoned factory premises. In their recent response, UNEP officials mentioned that they would require a formal request from the MoEF, government of India to consider the request.

The organisations stated that according to the 2012 report of the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research IITR), soil and ground water of 22 settlements within 3.5 kms of the factory was contaminated by the dumped hazardous wastes of Union Carbide. Recent tests indicate that the contamination has spread beyond these settlements.

The organisations that the actual amount of liability (of the Union Carbide and its present owner Dow Chemicals) and the most appropriate strategy for remediation of the contaminated area could be ascertained through the comprehensive scientific assessment. The Government of India has sought Rs 350 crores from Dow Chemical as advance for cleanup in the ongoing litigation in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, they said.

UNEP with its long experience of environmental assessment and its independent status is the ideal organization to carry out the scientific assessment in Bhopal, the representatives mentioned.

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