People of Tarpura in Dhar district feel cheated and appear resigned to their fate after years of futile struggle to block a controversial move to dispose of tons of toxic waste in their village from Bhopal’s now-defunct Union Carbide factory.
Authorities secretly trucked about 10 tonnes of the hazardous waste from the Union Carbide factory to a private incineration facility in Tarpura and began burning it on Thursday. In 2012, the Supreme Court had cleared the disposal of the waste but strong protests from villagers and activists in Tarpura had forced the government to shelve the plan.
From stoning trucks belonging to Ramky Enviro Engineers, the Hyderabad-based company that runs the waste-disposal facility in Tarpura, to staging protests outside the plant premises, the local villagers had made it difficult for the authorities to carry out the incineration of about 350 tons of toxic waste.
Even local industrialists and politicians joined the agitation that peaked in July 2011, following which the then Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh had promised the villagers that no decision would be taken without their consent.
But the villagers were caught unawares when Hindustan Times reported on Friday that the old toxic waste was being incinerated at the disposal facility barely on the outskirts of the village.
“I feel betrayed. We approached everyone from the district officials to politicians, but nothing came out of it,” 53-year-old Saligram, a shopkeeper, said.
This is the second time the Madhya Pradesh government has shipped Union Carbide waste to Pithampur while keeping the locals in the dark. In July 2008, taking advantage of a curfew imposed in Indore after communal riots, the government shifted 40 tonnes of waste from the defunct Union Carbide plant in Bhopal. That particular waste was mostly sludge that was treated and buried in a landfill.
In fact, during his visit to Pithampur, Jairam Ramesh had expressed regret over the incident.
“I admit as a minister that it was wrong to have brought those 40 tonnes of waste to Pithampur. Whatever we do needs to be done with adequate transparency. I am ready to admit publicly that transporting that waste from the Union Carbide factory secretly during the night hours was wrong. Locals of Pithampur should have been taken into confidence,” he said.
The villagers have been complaining about the industrial waste disposal facility for several years now. They say the smoke that comes out of its chimneys creates a terrible stench and the water in the wells has been contaminated.
“Nobody listens to us. The NGOs and media people come once in a while but nothing has changed,” Saligram said, dejected.