The water in and around the deserted Union Carbide plant in Bhopal is contaminated and not fit for consumption, the Supreme Court was told on Tuesday. The report was filed by the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR) in Lucknow which had collected 26 samples from around the factory following the apex court's directive seeking a report on the level of groundwater contamination in the area.
NGOs working among survivors of gas disaster victims had been claiming that the groundwater in areas around the Carbide plant was highly contaminated and residents of those localities were drinking that water. Hazardous chemical waste left behind by Union Carbide in the factory premises and solar ponds created to dump chemical waste of the factory was said to be causing contamination of underground water due to seepage, particularly during rainy season.
According to the IITR report, the results of the levels of chlorine and nitrate in the samples were found to be higher than permissible. The court agreed with the NGOs who were reasoning that contamination shown in the report might actually be less than actual as water-testing during rainy season usually gave misleading results. It asked IITR to collect more samples in the month of October and give a report within three months.
The court further asked the IITR experts to consult the reports of studies carried out in the past to gauge the extent of contamination in groundwater in the area. Centre for Science & Environment (CSE) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2009 were referred to in this context. The two studies in question and several past studies had found heavy metals and residues of chemicals, used in manufacturing process of pesticide at the factory, in the groundwater.
The Supreme Court had ordered on May 7, 2004 that piped water be supplied to 14 settlements around Carbide site affected by groundwater contamination. However, IITR findings have confirmed contamination in 18 settlements, indicating that the area of contamination was increasing with the passage of time.