Conveying its strong displeasure in equally strong words, the Madhya Pradesh high court on Thursday lashed out at the Maharashtra government for its ‘casual’ approach on the issue of Union Carbide’s toxic waste disposal.
The court gave three days to the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to inspect Union Carbide’s Bhopal plant, collect samples and analyse the toxicity of the waste in two weeks.
A court had directed the MPCB last month to collect and examine the toxic waste and submit its findings. But on Thursday while hearing the case, the MPCB sought more time, which annoyed the court.
The court would now hear the matter on August 29 and directed the MPCB to furnish the details of the findings of toxic waste examination then. The court asked MP government to allow MPCB to carry out analysis of 346-tonne of the toxic material lying at the now defunct Bhopal plant.
The Jabalpur high court had last month granted a stay on its July 12 order directing MP government to transport toxic waste lying at Union Carbide’s abandoned Bhopal plant to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) facility near Nagpur for its scientific disposal.
However, a division bench comprising justice Sushil Harkauli and justice U C Maheshwari made it clear that hazardous waste needs disposal and refused to curtail the process and directed MPCB to collect sample of toxic waste from Bhopal. This means the actual transportation of the toxic waste has been stayed until further orders.
Earlier, responding to a petition, the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court had directed the state government to file an appropriate application before the MP high court to modify its earlier orders regarding dumping and incinerating the Union Carbide’s toxic waste near Nagpur, apparently to avoid conflict between two high courts.
Hence, a fresh application was filed before the MP court on the issue.
The petition was filed before the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court when the Jabalpur bench directed the Madhya Pradesh government on July 12 to transport toxic waste to Nagpur and file compliance report by July 28.
The Jabalpur court’s directives to transport the toxic waste near Nagpur triggered resistance and anger among the people of Nagpur.
Local units of political parties, including the ruling Congress, NCP and BJP and environment activists opposed the move, though the DRDO had said it has the expertise and the facility for safe toxic waste disposal.
It was the then minister of forests and environment Jairam Ramesh, who suggested disposing the 346-tonne of Union Carbide waste at the DRDO facility. However, Ramesh did not take Maharashtra government into confidence while making such a suggestion.
People of Nagpur feel that it would pose a pollution threat for them. The toxic waste is lying on the Union Carbide factory premises in Bhopal for well over two and half decades.
The Maharashtra environment minister, Sanjay Deotale, had told the state Assembly last week that the government would approach the apex court, if necessary, to oppose the burning of toxic waste near Nagpur.
The minister made it clear that even transporting the material from Bhopal to Nagpur -- a journey of 360 km -- would also pose problems.