Although no final decision was arrived on alternative site for disposal of 350 metric tonne of packaged chemical waste lying on Union Carbide premises following refusal of the German company GIZ to carry out the task, Pithampur in Dewas emerged as the only place where possibility of incinerating the waste could be explored.
In fact, the high-level meeting convened under the chairmanship of chief secretary R Parasuram was ill-prepared to handle the issue in the changed circumstances as decision of the German company not to accept the offer of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Bhopal was not known to most of the members, till morning newspapers splashed the news.
However, chief secretary asked all the members to suggest alternative sites where disposal of waste could be carried out. Member secretary of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), TS Kamyotra, said Ankleshwar in Gujarat has a sophisticated facility for disposal of chemical waste and the Union government tried to prevail upon the Gujarat government to allow incineration of Carbide waste there but it didn't agree. The option of using Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) laboratory near Nagpur for this purpose has also been ruled out. Taloja near Raigarh in Chhattisgarh and Pithampur near Dewas in MP were the other options explored but at all the four places, the idea had to be given up due to public protests.
Bhopal commissioner Manoj Goyal and some other members suggested that re-examining the option of Pithampur was the only option as the Supreme Court order of August 9 2012 has set a deadline of six months for cleaning up the plant and even if some more time is sought for the purpose in the wake of the German company walking out of the agreement, there is not much time left.
Officials said that Ramkey's facility at Pithampur could be upgraded and necessary infrastructure could be provided to the company to handle the waste and incinerate it in a safe manner.
In response to a member asking that the disposal of 350 metric tonne of packaged waste was only a fraction of the total exercise of cleaning up of the Carbide site as envisaged in the remediation plan of 2011, secretary, ministry of chemicals and petro chemicals K Jose Cyriac said that after the disposal of packaged toxic waste and treatment of 1.1 million tonne of soil inside the plant, disposal of waste buried in the solar evaporation plant, where the company used to dump its waste, would be taken up in the next two stages of remediation.
Contrary to oral denial by successive state gas relief ministers that the soil and waste lying in the plant and areas around was highly toxic, the meeting was apprised that residues of nepthol, sevin, mercury spillage, reactor residue and huge quantity of semi-processed pesticides was present in the waste and soil.