Union Carbide’s waste disposal trial run a farce: Activists

Sunday, February 21, 2010

BHOPAL - Despite the recent Supreme Court directive to dispose of the hazardous waste lying in the now-defunct Union Carbide plant here by putting it through an incinerator in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar district, the trial runs for waste disposal flout enviromental norms, activists claim.

The toxic waste is to be incinerated at the Common Transport Storage and Disposal Facility (CTSDF) at Pitampura in Dhar.

“More than three years have passed since an incinerator for disposal of the hazardous waste at the CTSDF at Pitampura was to be started, but the project has failed to comply with several environmental norms,” Hajira Bi of International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB) told IANS.

“As a result, it has not been able to get the requisite permission from the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board (MPPCB),” Hajira Bi said.

“Trial runs of the incinerator cannot be conducted until the MPPCB gives permission to operate the facility under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA), 1986,” she said.

“During a recent joint inspection conducted by officials of the MP Pollution Control Board and the Central Pollution Control Board, several shortcomings were noted on the part of the operators and directions for speedy completion of pending task were given before the application could be considered,” claimed Hajira Bi, who has been an active campaigner for victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy.

On the night of Dec 3, 1984, toxic methyl isocynate (MIC) gas leaked from the pesticide plant then owned by Union Carbide in Bhopal. That, one of the worst industrial disasters in the world, killed thousands and left suvivours with life long diseases and medical complications.

She has also obtained information about the status reports, inspection reports and compliance reports of the CPCB on the facility, under the Right To Information Act.

The joint inspection report, according to Hajira Bi, shows that the operator — the Dow Chemicals which took over Union Carbide worldwide — has failed to shift the 1,136.42 tonnes of incinerable hazardous waste stored at the site despite several warnings and a notice by the pollution control board under the EPA, 1986, and a court case by the MPPCB.

The operator was asked to shift the waste to its other facilities in other states for incinerator.

Dow Chemicals has also failed to construct a 1,000-square metre storage shed, submit a third party (like Bureau of Indian Standards) certification for the material used for rotary kiln and secondary combustion chamber, provide automatic water sprinkling system around the shed and towards nearby village Tarapur located within 500 meters of the facility.

The operator, according to the information received under the RTI Act, has not installed multi-effect evaporator and smoke detector, get approval of on-site emergency plan for the incinerable waste area as directed by the Pollution Control Board.

Besides, the waste management project facility does not have the requisite authorisations under the Air Act and the Water Act and also built landfills that are not as per approved design of the CPCB.

“It is apparent from the government reports that there are severe violations with the TSDF facility in Pithampur. Instead of shutting down the facility, both governments and Supreme Court are busy creating another Bhopal-like disaster in Pithampur by allowing the Bhopal waste to be incinerated at the faulty facility,” Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) said.

“As per the polluters pays principal, the court should ask Dow Chemical Company to pay for the transport and clean up of toxic waste in an OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) country which has the appropriate technology and experience for safe disposal.

“The governments and court of this country need to show people of Bhopal that they care for the health and environment of this country by asking Dow Chemicals to clean up its toxic waste and not jeopardize the lives of people of Pithampur by allowing the toxic waste to be burnt in the sub standard facility,” Dhingra told IANS.

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Jamuna Devi of the Congress has also objected to the reported state government plans to destroy the toxic waste of the now closed pesticide plant of the Union Carbide in Bhopal at Pithampur in Dhar district.

“I have written a letter to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, urging that the toxic waste must be disposed of in an uninhabited island rather than Pithampur”, said Devi.

Filed under: Environment

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