Hazardous Union Carbide waste to be burnt... after 37 long years - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Hazardous Union Carbide waste to be burnt... after 37 long years

By, Bhopal
Mar 17, 2022 09:23 AM IST

The hazardous waste at the plant is believed to have contaminated ground water in and around the plant causing chronic illness to several people still living around it.

The 337 tonnes of hazardous waste at the Union Carbide’s plant in Bhopal will be burnt at an incinerator at Pithampur industrial areas in Indore, 37 years after the gas leak from the chemical plant killed close to 4,000 people, officials said.

Union Carbide plant in Bhopal. (Mujeeb Faruqui/HT file photo) PREMIUM
Union Carbide plant in Bhopal. (Mujeeb Faruqui/HT file photo)

The hazardous waste at the plant is believed to have contaminated ground water in and around the plant causing chronic illness to several people still living around it.

In 2007, a Central Pollution Control Board team found that ground water in the area was indeed contaminated by the presence of hazardous waste at the plant. That discovery resulted in a case in the Madhya Pradesh high court, subsequently heard by the Supreme Court, which ordered that the waste be safely disposed.

In 2010, the Madhya Pradesh government proposed to transport the waste to Germany for safe disposal but the plan had to be shelved after opposition from some people in Germany. In 2015, the SC allowed the government to dispose 10 tonnes of waste at Pithampur incinerator. A team of experts did not find any adverse impact on air, water and soil because of the waste burning. However, the plan to dispose the entire waste was shelved following protests by owners of industrial units in Pithampur and residents in the area, the officials added.

An official at Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation (BGTRR) department said that earlier this year, the MP government floated a tender for disposal of the remaining waste and Ramky Enviro Engineers Limited won the contract. “Now, the state government has sent a letter to the Union environment ministry for 150 crore so that the disposal can be started within a month,” said Basant Kurre, director, BGTRR department. The waste would be burnt at the rate of 90kg/hour, he added, double the rate at which it was in 2015. “A team of environmental experts will monitor the situation and speed can be reduced if there is adverse environmental impact.”

At this rate, it will take 151 days for the waste to be disposed if the plant operates 24 hours a day.

According to Kurre, the remaining hazardous waste will be shifted to Pithampur , 225km from Bhopal, in closed leakproof containers.

The waste was dumped in the Union Carbide plant after the leakage of at least 30 tonnes of deadly Methyl Isocynate gas from the plant on the intervening night of December 2 and 3 in 1984. The gas leak claimed the lives of 3,928 people, according to official data submitted in the Supreme Court, although the activists claimed that at least 10,000 people died from the world’s worst industrial accident.

In 2007, the Jabalpur bench of the MP high court asked the Centre to dispose the waste. A group of ministers of the then Congress-led UPA government recommended sending the waste to Germany. But after protests by environment and citizen groups there, the Union government decided to dispose the waste in India. Pithampur was selected as a site for disposal.

Then MP environment minister Jayant Malaiya opposed the move claiming that experts have raised the possibility of contamination of Yashwantpur Reservoir, which is a source of drinking water. Finally, the Supreme Court in 2012 decided that a trial would be carried out at the facility of Ramky Environment Engineers Limited, Pithampur.

After three years, the trial happened , and didn’t result in emissions of toxins crossing the permissible limits, according to an official of the MP pollution control board, which was asked by the SC to monitor the trial. But with protests continuing, and with no consensus between the state and the Centre on the way forward, nothing happened for seven years.

Till the state issued the tender on December 2021. The work was allocated to Ramky on February 25. A Ramky spokesperson refused to comment on the matter.

Even now, disposing the waste at Pithampur may not be easy.

Rachan Dhingra, convener of Bhopal Group for Information and Action, said, “Surprisingly, the waste is going to be disposed of at a site which is just 250m away from Tarapur village. As per CPCB guidelines, hazardous waste has to be disposed at least 500m away from a human habitation”.

Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription

Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics
freemium
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, July 25, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On