Govt Now Plans to Dispose Toxic UCC Waste Via Tender
Move comes over a year after pilot incineration of 10 tonnes in MP’s Dhar
New Delhi: Thirty two years after the ghastly Union Carbide gas leak killed and maimed thousands of people, the government is finally preparing for complete disposal of about 332 tonnes of toxic waste lying dumped in the Bhopal factory, through the tender route. The move comes over a year after the pilot incineration of 10 tonnes of Union Carbide waste was conducted in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh and a report was submitted to the Supreme Court saying that the resulting emissions/pollution was within permissible limits. The report has paved way for disposal of the remaining 300 odd tonnes of waste as well and the Centre is set to move ahead, sources told ET. The disposal of this waste sitting for three decades in Bhopal has incidentally been the subject of much debate and discussion but has found no resolution. Back in 2007, the Jabalpur High Court ordered its destruction at the earliest. A UPA era Group of Ministers headed by P Chidamabaram on the Bhopal Gas tragedy issue, had proposed that over 300 tonnes of this waste be airlifted to Germany for disposal by the German Society for International Co-operation (GIZ)- a proposal that fell through, as did others for disposal of the waste in Maharashtra and Gujarat. The 2015 pilot incineration of a part of the waste, however, may have set the ball finally rolling.
ET has now learnt that the Environment ministry re- cently sought funds for disposal of the toxic waste and remediation of the heavily contaminated site and the Department of Expenditure has approved the allocation for the same. High level discussions are now on to decide whether it should be the Environment ministry which should float the tender and directly fund the disposal and remediation or should it be done through the Madhya Pradesh Government which can then be allocated funds.. A decision is likely to be taken later this month, reliable sources told ET. Ramky Group which operates the Treatment Storage and Disposal Facility ( TSDF) at Dhar district had conducted the first pilot round of incineration of waste from the Union Carbide plant in 2015.Incineration of about 10 tonnes cost about .₹ 15 crore. Accordingly, it is estimated that disposal of the entire 332 tonnes of waste will run close to .₹ 500 crore.
Aware that most states will not allow the incineration to be conducted in their territory, it is expected that it will have to be done at a site in Madhya Pradesh itself. Even that will be no smooth route as the pilot incineration at Dhar drew considerable ire and opposition from activists and civil society on its environmental and health impact.
Union Carbine India manufactured pesticides at its plant in Bhopal from1969 to1984 until the fateful, December 1984 night when the deadly methyl isocyanate leaked out of the plant into the city killing thousands & maiming many others.