A huge amount of toxic waste from the defunct Union Carbide plant may be disposed of at a facility in Peethampur that lacks a key apparatus — thanks to the Madhya Pradesh government's surprise omission of facts before the Supreme Court.
The apex court had earlier ordered disposal of 350 metric tonne of packaged toxic waste of Union Carbide at Peethampur, but the state government failed to apprise it that the company Ramky Enviro Engineers did not have multiple effect evaporator (MEE) at its incineration facility.
Despite repeated warnings by the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board (MPPCB) to revoke consent for operation (CFO) to the unit in MEE's absence, when the company failed to comply with the order, the bank guarantee of Rs 3 lakh deposited by it with the board was confiscated by an order issued on April 30, 2014.
Seven trial runs for incineration of Carbide waste at Peethampur facility have already taken place and it is not clear as to how it was allowed in the absence of an equipment as essential for safe disposal of waste as MEE.
"The fact that MPPCB has been pursuing the company to install MEE since 2008 only exemplifies its critical role in safe disposal of waste. The company has been evading its installation and MPPCB goes on giving it time. The facility should have been shut in 2008 itself," said an MPPCB official, requesting anonymity.
But more startling than MPPCB's liberal attitude towards Ramky Enviro is the "ignorance" of the state government, which filed a special leave petition (SLP) before the Supreme Court asking that Carbide waste was not disposed of at Peethampur facility but, somehow, failed to bring to the notice of the court that the facility lacked an essential component for safe incineration of waste.
"It's really shocking. How is it possible that the state government files an SLP seeking that Carbide waste should be disposed somewhere else and not in Peethampur but didn't apprise the court the serious shortcomings at the facility, which makes safe disposal of waste impossible," said Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information & Action (BGIA).
In fact, subsequent to confiscation of bank guarantee, in June 2014, the MPPCB revoked the consent for operation of the facility and was reinstated only when the MP Waste Management Project agreed to give an undertaking to install the MEE within six months and also deposit Rs 50 lakh bank guarantee.
When contacted, MPPCB chairman NP Shukla said, "I don't remember of any fine on Ramky. We don't penalise companies like this anyway."