While the treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) facility in Pithampur has emerged as the 'sole option' for disposal of 346 tonnes of toxic Union Carbide waste, a village in the vicinity of the facility seems to have escaped the notice of the officials as far as safety norms are concerned.
As per the norms, there should be a buffer zone of 500 meters around the periphery of the disposal facility. However, some houses in the village Tarpura, comprising 250-odd dwellings, are hardly 200 meters away from the disposal facility's boundary.
However, the company running the facility has played down the safety issue. “there are no safety issues,” an official of Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd said while admitting that the norms do require a 500 meter buffer zone.
Meanwhile, NGO Lok Maitri and the industry associations want the government to rule out Pithampur and explore other options. “It's an old village, and the villagers have been living there long before the disposal facility was planned in the vicinity. The government needs to explore other options,” said NGO member and Pithampur industry association president Gautam Kothari.
It may be recalled that tonnes of lime sledge from Union Carbide site was buried at the Pithampur TSDF site in 2009 in a quiet manner. Since then, the villagers have complained of skin ailments and also alleged that the water in the well has become contaminated.
In 2010, trial runs were conducted at the Pithampur facility after MP Pollution Control Board and Central Pollution Control Board had given clearance for operating the incinerator.
However, the then Union minister for environment and forest Jairam Ramesh, after his visit to the plant and the surrounding village had ruled out Pithampur TSDF for disposal of Union Carbide waste. Subsequently, the state government after several rounds of meetings with EGoM (empowered group of ministers) on Bhopal had zeroed in on the facility run by German company GIZ for disposal of toxic waste.
With the German company pulling out, things are now back to square one. However, if the government decides to go ahead with disposal of Union Carbide waste at Pithampur facility, it will first have to rehabilitate the entire village.