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Concerned at the “dismal” state of waste management and disposal in the city, the Delhi High Court today summoned the Commissioners of the three municipal bodies asking them to explain why rules regarding garbage disposal are not being adhered to.
A bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Jayant Nath also sought the personal presence of the Member Secretary of Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to explain whether it has prosecuted anyone for causing pollution in Delhi and the national capital region (NCR).
The direction came after amicus curiae and senior advocate Kailash Vasdev told the court that rules regarding solid waste management and regulation of landfill sites were not being adhered to by the municipal bodies.
The bench also noted that DPCC was not taking any action against the corporations for non-compliance of the rules and sought the presence of its Member Secretary to show the court the number of prosecutions initiated or carried out by the agency under the Environment Protection Act.
“Why do we have these rules? Why do we make them? The problem with India is implementation. We cannot implement anything,” the bench said and added “such a dismal state of affairs. Just rubbish and ‘malba’ (debris) everywhere.”
DPCC, represented by advocate Sanjeev Ralli, said none of the landfill sites came up with any authorisation and it cannot order their closure as it had not given permission to set them up.
Ralli said it was the corporations’ duty to stop operation of the sites once they have reached a particular height.
The court, however, did not agree with the submission and said it was the duty of DPCC, as the watchdog, to prevent pollution and it has to tell the corporations that their landfills do not conform to the norms.
The bench said if authorities like the municipal corporations and Delhi Development Authority say they cannot do anything “then why should they be there? We will remove them”.
The state (Madhya Pradesh) as well as the India central government and the US government seem to be ignoring the plight of victims and the remaining dangerous toxic waste. The leftover toxic waste is still a big danger to people in the area.
Indian Express reports:
Survivors of 1984 Bhopal Gas tragedy on Saturday staged a protest in front of the now-defunct Union Carbide factory here on the 32nd anniversary of the world’s worst industrial disaster, with activists alleging that toxic waste lying there was still to be cleaned up.
“The abandoned factory’s toxic waste is still killing and maiming people living around its premises,” Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogee Sangharsh Morcha president, Balkrishna Namdeo said.
Rashida Bi, president of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, said those living in the radius of five km of the factory were forced to drink the contaminated underground water and “are contracting deadly diseases due to the seepage of toxic waste dumped in the factory premises”.
Union Carbide dumped 11 lakh tonnes of toxic waste on the premises during its 14 years of operations, she claimed.
“Right now, 340 tonnes of toxic waste is lying on the ground. The Dow Chemical Company which took over Carbide in 2001 is responsible for cleaning up the contamination of soil and groundwater in more than 50 sq km area around the factory,” she said.
Rachna Dhingra of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action says:
Till date there has been no scientific comprehensive assessment done to ascertain how far and how deep the chemicals have seeped.
As per earlier studies, poisonous chemicals have contaminated drinking water for several kilometers north and north-east to the factory affecting 22 communities.
But now our research shows 10 more communities are affected due to poor quality of water.
Further the Livemint report says:
- In December 2010, the Centre had filed a curative petition in the Supreme Court seeking to enhance compensation from Union Carbide Corporation (UCC). But Dhingra said the case is yet to be heard and Centre doesn’t seem to be making any effort to push for an early hearing.
- In pursuance of the orders of Supreme Court in April 2014, the environment ministry authorized the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which is India’s nodal pollution watchdog, to incinerate 10 tonnes of UCIL waste at treatment, storage and disposal facility during August, 2015.
- The environment ministry further sought directions from the Supreme Court on the future roadmap for disposal of the remaining waste and remediation of the contaminated site.
“Why are we focused only on that 350 tonnes of waste as that is not even 5% of the total toxic waste. There are three ponds where waste was dumped in factory between 1977-84. One should be talking about those sources of contamination. There are 21 other locations inside factory where waste was buried. That waste is causing damage and that needs to be handled,” Dhingra added.
- Experts point out that it’s a timely reminder for authorities to prepare a national level policy for contaminated sites.
- “It is unfortunate that Bhopal is still unresolved. But even on a national level we don’t have comprehensive standards to tackle contaminated sites. For instance, one has to decide what is the post clean up use of a site? We need such comprehensive policy,” said Ravi Agarwal, director, Toxics Link, a New Delhi-based non-profit working on environmental issues.
HT shares a brief history:
- Over the last three decades, there have been over 16 studies on toxic waste, soil and groundwater contamination.
- Set up to manufacture pesticides, the Union Carbide plant ended up killing and maiming thousands
- 1969: Union Carbide sets up pesticide plant in Bhopal. Hazardous waste routinely dumped in factory premises
- 1977: Solar evaporation ponds built on 32 acres for dumping of hazardous wastes
- December 2-3, 1984: Poisonous gas leak from Union Carbide pesticides factory
- 1990: Citizen’s Environmental Laboratory in Boston identifies toxic materials in the soil and water surrounding the plant
- 1991: State Research Laboratory of PHE department reports chemical contamination in samples taken from 11 tubewells in the area
- 1994: NEERI reports that over one-fifth of the factory site had been used for dumping hazardous waste
- 1996: State Research Laboratory of PHE department again reports chemical contamination in samples taken from 11 tubewells in the area
- 1999: Greenpeace International conducts a study that finds Carbide plant area to be high in mercury and 12 volatile organochlorine compounds (VOCs)
- January 2002: A scientific report finds lead and mercury in the breast milk of nursing mothers in communities around the plant
- August 14, 2015: 10 tonnes of toxic waste incinerated at the treatment storage disposal facility (TDSF) in Pithampur on a trial basis, three years after Supreme Court order
- December 2015: Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) forwards report of trial runs of toxic waste disposal to Union environment ministry.
Despite the agitation and these media coverage (Indian Express, Livemint, Hindustan Times and others) there seems to be no response from the respective governments.
The Uttar Pradesh government has revoked the suspension of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, thereby correcting a huge mistake they had made by illegally suspending her.
Earlier there was huge furor all over India when the Akhilesh Yadav government had suspended her and a video of SP leader Narinder Bhati surfaced, where he was heard boasting that he got Nagpal suspended in “41 minutes” flat!
Acitive Citizens are widely celebrating it as their victory! Hats-Off to aware and active citizens of India.
Some comments from twitter:
@SonuKumarJha01: Finally akhileshji ko himmat aa gayi, Revoke of suspension of Durga mam is revolutionary step.
@gauravksharmaa: Victory-IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal’s suspension revoked by Uttar Pradesh government
@rajeevkthukral: excellent news after a long time from UP. Wish you all the best Ms durga shakti and hope to see you in action soon
@blguptaa: Durga Shakti Nagpal reinstated. “Der aayat durust aayat!!”
The suspension of IAS Officer Durga Shakti Nagpal has seen unprecedented support from various sections of society. Spurred by the huge outcry from people, the media has been forced to take up the issue in a big way – every publication worth its salt is using “investigative journalism” to dig up more and more facts and conspiracy behind the suspension. It is obvious that she was acting against sand mining mafia and she had to be contained.
One Hindi news channel (Aaj Tak) has even gone ahead and done a sting operation on how the real story is shaping up behind the scenes. Narendra Bhati has claimed that it took him 40 minutes to get the suspension order. Why did he do it? Because IAS Officer Nagpal had filed a FIR against his close aide Omendra Khari in a sand mining case.
In view of these revelations, the Uttar Pradesh government stands naked but undeterred. The sting operation shows Bhati’s aide saying that the issue will help mobilize votes of Muslims and if they play their card right then the Samajwadi Party (SP) can get 36 Lok Sabha seats.
So far, no corrective action from the centre or the state government is expected. The most powerful person in the country, Sonia Gandhi, has indulged in political gimmickry by writing a letter to the Prime Minister asking him to look into the case.
She was much more proactive for her son-in-law Robert Vadra when another IAS officer Ashok Khemka took action against Vadra’s illegal deals- a superficial inquiry was conducted to get the case closed fast. Nobody could answer why no action was taken against Robert Vadra for making money through unscrupulous means.
The protests against Robert Vadra’s misuse of being a relative of Sonia Gandhi did not sustain long enough despite the agitations against corruption in India by the likes of Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and many more leaders and groups of people.
Now, with much larger support for Durga Shakti Nagpal, may we expect the citizens of the country to get bolder? As reported here, a retired civil servant, says the case has triggered the “collective conscience of the country to rise against criminality in politics”.
The DNA report quotes Surinder S. Jodhka, professor and chair at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems in Jawaharlal Nehru University:
“This is the whole thing about the arrival of the middle class. Five years back the middle class would have looked away, but we have seen the way they are now voicing concern over large number of issues, like the anti-corruption movement, or women’s safety issues, and the growing criminalisation of politics. It certainly indicates a change for the better.”
The outcry has been massive on Social Media but very few protests on the streets – some by activists of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and few more smaller groups. At the moment, it appears that the UP government is going to let the issue linger on till the protests fizzle out. They have 90 days to confirm or withdraw the suspension of Nagpal which is a long time for any protest to sustain.
Will the protests fizzle out or shall the people’s will prevail? Do we have it in us to make sure that the UP government is pressured long enough to get the suspension of IAS Durga Shakti Nagpal revoked?
At the Citizens For Action Forum, we will keep the heat up!
Journalists come up with strong stories, make a big noise, generate loud protests and then the story dies its natural death before yet another story takes birth to suffer an almost identical fate.
Anand Ranganathan has raised this powerful question in his write-up “P Sainath: The Anti-Mahatma”.
He reminds us that Mahatma Gandhi was a journalist first and then he did the unthinkable act of crossing the Lakshman Rekha for a journalist: “just observe and report, don’t take part. Don’t jump the line”. He says:
Dozens of journalists may have written prior to Dandi about the ludicrousness and injustice of a salt-tax through their columns and editorials, but what is etched ultimately in our collective memory is not their beautifully worded protest or a critique of the British tax policy (“Wah! Kya likhtain hain, janab!”).
What makes our hair stand on end, instead, is the image of a half-naked journalist walking briskly a thousand dusty miles just to raise a fistful of sand high up in the air for all to see and cheer.
That is jumping in; that is crossing over the line which separates journalism from activism, observer from doer, man from Mahatma.
So, that is the call for us!
Do we have the clarity and guts to realize that unless we transcend the line from observer to action, we are no better than corrupt politicians, criminals and all other varying kinds of scum.