Congratulations, it is an eye opener to other states that are thinking of such schemes.
In Hyderabad, the government...
Thanks. You have raised a very pertinent issue. My family is a great lover of Makhana and we use it in different ways. Slowly...
the controversial move by the Madhya Pradesh government to incinerate some waste from the the Union Carbide
factory in Bhopal has met with stiff opposition. Civil society groups have strongly criticised the plan to take the waste to an incinerator in Gujarat.
They say the incinerator at Ankleshwar is badly equipped and the move will merely shift the health hazards and in no way help dispose the toxic
chemical waste. Moreover, the move will rid Dow Chemicals--responsible for the waste's disposal--of the responsibility, say the groups. They moved
the High Court of Madhya Pradesh against the plan, but the court declined to interfere into the matter.
The move comes under the directives of the high court. The court has ordered the state and the centre to jointly bear the cost of Rs 2 crore for
the disposal.Of the 5,000 tonnes waste stored at a warehouse in the factory, 345 metric tonnes will reach Ankleshwar-based Bharuch Environ
Infrastructure Limited (biel) in Gujarat for incineration. Another 40 tonnes will be disposed in a landfill in Pithampur in
Indore. These are 6.9 and 0.8 per cent of the total waste.
The Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department (bgtrrd) is awaiting clearance of the complete schedule of
the disposal procedure from the high court. "In anticipation, all preparations to transport the toxic chemical waste have been started," says Ajit
Kesri, bgtrd secretary.
The Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board (mppcb), part of the task force set up by the high court in 2005 to give
technical expertise for the clean-up, has said it will not monitor the disposal. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (gpcb)
has backed it, maintaining that the site is fully equipped to handle the waste. "Having assessed the facilities of beil, we
have approved their plan," says gpcb's regional officer at Bharuch. The chairman of mppcb,
S P Gautam, agrees "The incinerator is of international standards and one of the best in the country regardless of what class='UCASE'>ngos say." mppcb, according to Gautam, will give its consent for transporting the toxic waste
and also monitor the procedure once bgtrrd completes tenders for the transport vehicles.
In Ahmedabad, representatives of beil said the company runs a world-class waste treatment plant, which has
adequate facilities for transport, storage and disposal of any kind of hazardous solid waste. Former Narmada development minister Jaynarayan Vyas
backs beil, saying the Bhopal toxic waste can safely be managed at Ankleshwar without any harm to the local
environment. "What we are bringing is solid waste and not any liquid. The waste has been lying there for over two decades and must have got diluted now. So it can be managed safely at Ankleshwar," he says.
Not everybody is buying this claim. Groups representing the survivors of the Bhopal tragedy and activists in Gujarat question the incinerator's ability
to control pollution. They say incineration of the toxic waste will pollute the area the way Union Carbide did, triggering another tragedy. That a
national company has undertaken the disposal goes against the 'polluter pays principle', they say.
Bhopal Group of Information and Action, an ngo, has filed a petition in the high court seeking a ban on the disposal. It
has also submitted a report comparing the Treatment Storage Disposal Facility (tsdf) in biel
and with the one in Biebesheim, Germany. The report was prepared by Eckart Schultes, hazardous waste management expert in Karnataka.
The report says the small facility at Ankleshwar can cause fluctuations in temperature, causing mercury emissions. Emissions of chemical pollutants
and acidic gases at the facility are likely to be several times higher than what many internationally available incineration technologies generate; and
land filling of dust and ashes from the incinerator without stabilisation can contaminate local environment with toxic heavy metals, salts and
inorganic compounds. All these can cause long lasting health and environmental problems to 100,000 people in the area.
The waste, says the report, will be manually emptied and re-packaged in plastic bags. This involves high health and safety risks and the facility is
inexperienced to handle this since it has been operational for only two years.
According to the report, the landfill at Pithampur is unsafely located on a hill and rainwater can get into it. It has inadequate monitoring of
leachates. According to Satinath Sarangi of Sambhavna Trust, an advocacy group, a small amount of toxic material disposed inefficiently can cause
environmental problems at both the sites.
In Gujarat, residents have organised protest rallies under Ankleshwar Bachao Samiti. Zia Pathan, a resident, says "We have warned the authorities.
If the waste is brought here for disposal, we would launch an agitation," adding, "So far they have not said when they would bring the
Environmentalist Rohit Prajapati says the Central Pollution Control Board (cpcb) in December 2006 asked
class='UCASE'>gpcb to assess the facilities at the Ankleshwar plant, asking it to conduct an exhaustive study of the region's capacity for
handling pollutants. "The Bharuch region of Gujarat has been under intense pressure due to the high air and water pollution potential on account of
the large number of chemical industries...," cpcb said. However, gpcb secretary Sanjeev
Tyagi says it needs time to carry out the directive since it has to arrange for the resources. This flies in the face of the board's claim that Bharuch
can handle the waste.
ngos say there are alternatives. They have come up with a plan of action to deal with the issue (see box An
alternative plan). Instead of taking toxic waste to Ankleshwar and Pithampur, the government should invest the fund to make provisions for
stopping toxic wastes seeping into ground during monsoon, the activists say. They also demand Dow Chemicals take back the waste to the class='UCASE'>us, like Unilever did--by shipping the toxic waste it made in Kodaikanal. The waste can be safely disposed in the class='UCASE'>us, which has advanced technology. The company has not yet dealt with the total waste at the factory and no proper
assessment of it has been done by any agency, they say. "Government organisations have caused delay and confusion. No attempt has been made
to compare studies on other hazardous wastes with the Carbide factory waste," says Sarangi.