Protest

The 32 year old Bhopal Gas tragedy that killed more than 3000 people has several hundred tonnes of leftover toxic waste

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.

Reference:

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