A central government committee suspects that the cost of decontamination of Union Carbide site in Bhopal was exaggerated and has sought review of the entire process to reach a realistic value.
A GoM in July had estimated that the decontamination cost was about R 250 crore based on the studies done by Nagpur based National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) and Hyderabad based National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI)
The environment ministry had constituted a peer review group headed by Professor R.Kumar of Indian Institute of Sciences to examine the two reports presented before the GoM headed by home minister P.Chidambaram by Madhya Pradesh government.
The group, in its report submitted to the ministry, last week said quantification of contamination by NEERI and NGRI was very high. “Soil contamination is not more than 20,000 square meters,” said a government official, quoting the report.
NEERI and NGRI had estimated that 6,50,000 square meters of soil inside and outside the Union Carbide factory, from where gas leaked in 1984 killed quarter of a century ago, was contaminated.
It meant that 11 lakh metric tonnes of soil, which can fill a football pitch, will have to be removed and decontaminated costing the government between R 78 to R 117crore, as per NEERI and NGRI estimate. The total cost of decontamination including treating contaminated underground water was R 250 crore.
Now, the peer review group has said that the total cost of decontamination is not so high. “It may cost R 100 crore. The high cost was projected because of improper methodology used for evaluating contamination,” said a committee member.
Ira May, former head of US Army Remediation Board and B. Sengupta, member secretary of Central Pollution Control Board in August 2010 asked the environment ministry to conduct additional studies at the Union Carbide site before carrying out remediation activities. “The full extent of contamination needs to be better defined as to clarify a scope of work for remedial contractors,” they said in a letter to environment minister Jairam Ramesh.
But, Nityanand Jayaraman, associated with victims of Bhopal Gas Tragedy, said the assessment of the contamination was not comprehensive.
The ministry has now decided to take the peer review group’s report to the GoM for a final decision.