GIZ terminates offer to dispose of Bhopal waste

Development follows information regarding GIZ proposal getting leaked in German media

The disposal of the toxic waste lying at the abandoned Union Carbide factory in Bhopal has once again become uncertain. The German agency that had proposed to airlift the waste to Germany and incinerate it there has withdrawn its offer to do so. The agency, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), sent a letter terminating the offer to Union minister P Chidambaram on September 17. Chidambaram heads the Group of Ministers looking into all matters related to the 1984 gas leak disaster in Bhopal.

Officials in the Indian government handling the matter claim to have no knowledge of this letter but reveal that a high level meeting is scheduled in Bhopal on Tuesday for disposing of the 350 tonnes of waste. Sources reveal that the information leak in the German media earlier this month has created a hostile environment in Germany, and so the waste can no longer be taken to Germany from India (see details of GIZ proposal). The letter has been termed as “friendly” by a senior official of GIZ. The letter “places no blame”, the official said.

It is reported that the German public and environmental activists are opposed to taking hazardous waste from India to Germany and are protesting the permission granted by Germany to airlift the waste. Soon after the proposal to airlift this waste to Germany was agreed to, the proposal ran into trouble. There were numerous discussions between GIZ and the Indian government, but the two parties did not see eye to eye on certain clauses in the agreement relating to liability and arbitration. The contract to begin work never got signed due to protracted discussions. Asked if there was a possibility of reconsidering the disposal of Bhopal waste in Germany, the GIZ official said that “it is very unlikely”. The source added that even if the differences between GIZ and the Indian government were to get sorted out, the information leak has caused too much damage to the image of GIZ and the German government and so the proposal cannot be taken forward.

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