Speaking out about the secret transport and disposal of hazardous waste from the Union Carbide factory, representatives of a conglomerate of five NGOs working for Bhopal gas tragedy victims on Monday demanded answers on the issue from ministers of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet.
They also expressed apprehension that Supreme Court guidelines were not being followed during the incineration of waste at the Pithampur facility.
Addressing a press conference, the NGOs expressed regret that instead of focusing on the vital task of scientific assessment of the contaminated area around the abandoned carbide factory, the central and state governments turned their attention towards disposing the 350-metric tonne packaged waste. The waste would not have done any damage if allowed to stay on in the factory premises, they said.
Rashida Bee, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh said, “In September 2010, the then state environment minister Jayant Mallaiya had objected to the disposal of Union Carbide waste at Pithampur on the grounds that it would lead to the contamination of the Yashwant Sagar reservoir — the source of drinking water for all of Indore. We want to ask him what is currently being done to protect its water from getting contaminated.”
Balkrishna Namdeo, president of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pensionbhogee Sangharsh Morcha asked home minister Babulal Gaur — then minister of gas relief — about the steps taken to address doubts regarding the capacity of the Pithampur facility to handle the waste.
In the group of ministers meeting held in October 2012, Gaur had opposed any move on test the incineration of Bhopal waste in Pithampur as he believed the facility was ranked among the lowest in the country in terms of waste-handling.
Nawab Khan of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha also sought to know what steps had been taken by the department of gas relief to alert and protect the neighbourhood and factory workers — potential victims in the event of incineration — as per its own affidavit filed before the Supreme Court in February 2013.
Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action also expressed apprehension that the directions of the Supreme Court with regard to the ongoing test incineration were being violated.
She said there was nothing to show that the entire operation had been and was being videographed and expressed particular concern about the absence of monitoring of toxic chemicals on the scene, that only Central Pollution Control Board experts are capable of checking. She pointed out that during the incineration trial runs at Pithampur, six out of seven times, the people in the area were exposed to dangerous levels of toxic chemical “dioxin”.
Safreen Khan of the Children Against Dow-Carbide pointed out that the waste-disposal at Pithampur was not protecting the people of Bhopal from Union Carbide’s poison, which is still present in soil and ground water.
She presented qualitative reports to show contamination in the ground water has spread much beyond the 22 communities that the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, (IITR) had marked as contaminated in 2012.
The NGOs have expressed regret that instead of focusing on the vital task of scientific assessment of the contaminated area around the abandoned carbide factory, the central and state governments have turned their attention towards disposing the 350-metric tonne packaged waste. The waste would not have done any damage if allowed to stay on in the factory premises.
Apprehension was also expressed that SC guidelines were not being followed during the incineration of waste at the Pithampur facility.