So now, finally, we are talking about handling Bhopal's toxic waste. How can this be solved?
Previously, the Ministry of Forests and Environment shamelessly and secretly took away a small amount of the waste to Pithampur, for incineration. Now it wants to pay to clean up by itself.
But the problem is, India's disposal facilities are not a patch on the world's best ones, and we have a poor record in hazardous waste management.
What shall we do?
I can think of one idea- for the waste to be taken away by Dow at its own cost, and under transparent supervision, to one of its own best facility for handling and final disposal, wherever in the world it may be.
We just don't have the facilities in India-let's not be ashamed of that. Trying to dispose off the waste in sub-standard facilities will only poison more people- an unacceptable side effect.
Let's not even attempt disposing off Bhopal's toxins in this country.
Green in Life and Death
Talking of end of life, the United States is now seeing a new kind of environmental awareness-about green burials or funerals. Obviously, if you are buried or cremated in a heavy, wooden coffin, you do take a few trees down with you.
A nascent trend is to ask to be buried in only a bio-degradable shroud, or a cardboard coffin, with no embalming so there are no toxics that leach into the soils. The objective is for the body to decompose and become part of the soil. And as an aside, it also means less trees dying along with every dead person.
In India, our burials are not something to worry about. But our cremations could be-if the deceased person has a mercury dental filling. Cremation will ensure it's likely to be discharged into the air-a very toxic last gift to the world.
Will we ever be brave enough to allow a service that extracts fillings at our cremation grounds, so the dead can contribute to the environment even after they've gone.