Nagpur bench stays transfer of Bhopal's toxic waste

Will it impact the ongoing case in the Madhya Pradesh High Court?

By Aparna Pallavi
Published: Saturday 17 December 2011

The Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has ordered a stay on the possible transfer of the toxic waste lying in the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal to the incineration facility maintained by the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) near Nagpur. The transfer of about 350 tonnes of hazardous waste from Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh to Nagpur in Maharashtra has become a contentious matter between the two states; both the Nagpur bench and the Jabalpur bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court are simultaneously hearing petitions relating to disposing of the waste.
The December 14 stay came in response to a petition filed by the residents of village Ruikhairi, led by sarpanch Sanjay Jeevane and deputy sarpanch Uttam Raut. The court issued an interim status quo order on account of the fact that the move to incinerate the waste in Nagpur is being carried out in an illegal, irregular and unauthorised manner without fulfilling the requirements of various relevant legislations.  It also stated that the apprehension of ordinary people regarding the impact of the operation have not been taken into account by the respondents.

The court also issued notices to the state environment secretary, the Union defence secretary, the director of DRDO, the member secretaries of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to show cause in four weeks. The stay order will be valid till the respondents file their replies.

The petitioners have pointed out to the court that after survey of the DRDO facilities at Borkhedi near Nagpur, MPCB has concluded that the facility is not adequate to incinerate heavy metals contained in the toxic waste. DRDO has also not sought permission from the MPCB as required by law, it said. The petition also pointed out that incinerating the waste at the facility will endanger the health and environment of village Ruikhairi, located just three-to-four km from the DRDO facility, and that none of the respondents have informed the Ruikjhairi gram panchayat regarding the move or had taken their consent.

In an earlier judgement in June this year, following a Jabalpur High Court order to start incineration work in Nagpur, the Nagpur bench had asked MPCB and state government to intervene in the case before the Jabalpur bench, adding that there will be no clash of court orders. This time around, however, the Nagpur bench’s stay order comes when a hearing on the same issue is pending in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, where the case is slated for December 19. In the last hearing on December 9, the MPCB had reiterated its opposition to incinerating the waste at the DRDO facility on various grounds. The Union environment ministry and CPCB have sought time till December 19 to file their replies. It remains to be seen how the stay impacts the proceedings in the Madhya Pradesh High Court.



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