Three years after a man was killed in India's first case of radiation exposure at the Mayapuri scrap market in West Delhi, there is still a big question mark on the preparedness to prevent such disasters.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) will on Wednesday hear a petition, which has claimed the mechanism to detect radiation is withering away. There is no screening of scrap before it finds its way to the market. The National Disaster Management Authority is still in the process of procuring devices, to be given to the police, to detect radiation.
There are hundreds of shops and big scrap units running on 700-odd plots in Delhi's biggest junkyard. But only two have been authorised to run by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee.
"We don't deal with small shops. After strict examination, we have allowed two industrial units, which produce hazardous wastes, to operate. As for radiation, there's nothing to panic. The levels are well within safe limits," said DPCC member secretary Sandeep Mishra.
"Screening of hazardous waste before it is dumped at the scrap market is not practically possible. People must not sell such waste casually. They must ensure safe disposal. As a policy, we have asked about 150 hazardous units to move out of non-industrial areas in Delhi," said Mishra.
An expert committee has, however, submitted its report on the Mayapuri market to the NGT. Though its details would be placed before the tribunal on Wednesday, it is learnt that the committee has found several loopholes.
Delhi resident SC Jain had in 2011 moved the Delhi High Court and claimed safeguards against possible radiation leak were missing because of lack of maintenance. The HC later transferred the case to the tribunal. During a hearing on April 4, the tribunal, apart from forming the expert committee to file a status report, also asked various government agencies to submit steps they have taken in the last three years and propose to take to ensure prevention of radiation leak.
The Delhi Development Authority has reportedly clarified to the tribunal that it has no plans to relocate the scrap market, shifted from Motiya Khan near Sadar Market in the mid-1970s, because of paucity of land for such use.
"Radioactive waste is not the only problem. Mercury thermometers, CFL bulbs, CDs and DVDs, old vehicles, and many kinds of packaging are still disposed in a most hazardous manner because of lack of space," said waste management expert Bharati Chaturvedi.