Actual disposal of waste may take up to a year
On July 3, the Union Cabinet approved the proposal to send 350 tonnes of waste lying at the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal to Germany. The proposal was forwarded by a German public undertaking—GIZ. The agreement on transporting the waste is yet to be finalised between the company and the Madhya Pradesh government. The waste consists of soil and chemical residue at the defunct factory site in the aftermath of the 1984 gas leak disaster.
Last month, the proposal was approved and recommended to the Cabinet by the Group of Ministers headed by P Chidambaram, constituted to look into all matters relating to the 28 year old industrial disaster. This approval came close on the heels of the Indian Supreme Court rapping the government for being “apathetic” to the fallouts of the gas leak. The proposal was scheduled to be heard in the apex court on July 2. When the government sought two weeks' time to submit the final details, the court granted a week's time and scheduled the hearing for July 13.
GIZ proposes to airlift the chemicals and the loose soil stacked at the factory premises to Germany in order to incinerate the toxic material in the hazardous waste incinerators there. The waste is to be taken to Germany at an estimated cost of Rs 25 to Rs 30 crores. The process is going to take approximately a year after all legal and technical conditions are finalised between GIZ and the Madhya Pradesh government, who are the ‘owners’ of the waste and, thus, liable for it till the waste enters the incinerator facility in Germany.
The survivors and victim organisations working in Bhopal have lauded the move but want the authorities to address the larger concerns of groundwater contamination and health hazards that residents of the localities near the factory premises are still suffering.
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