Featured Articles

Latest Post

Jindal waste incinerator case listed for final hearing in NGT on 13 & 14 October 2014

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, August 22, 2014 | 4:17 AM


One of the main reasons for anxiety among residents and environmental groups is high dioxin levels around the plant. When CPCB monitored air quality there last October, dioxin level in stack 1 was 1.06ng TEQ/Nm3 (toxicity equivalent) and that in stack 2 was 0.93ng TEQ/Nm3 though safe level is 0.1ng TEQ/Nm3 only.



Hazardous waste to energy incinerator plant taking its toll on residents and birds of Okhla

New Delhi: After 15 hearings in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and 
28 hearings in Delhi High Court, the matter of Dioxins emitting municipal waste incinerator of Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Co Pvt Ltd (TOWMCL) of M/s Jindal Urban Infrastructure Limited (JUIL), a company of M/s Jindal Saw Group Limited owned by Prithviraj Jindal is listed for final disposal on 13th October, 2014 and 14th October, 2014. Environmental groups and residents have been demanding its stoppage and closure since March 2005. Admittedly, this plant has violated all the rules in the rule book with impunity. It is a classic case of environmental lawlessness in the heart of the national capital. The plant is operating without environmental clearance for its unapproved Chinese technology. The construction of the plant happened admittedly because of a fake public hearing.        

On August 6, 2014, NGT heard the matter. CPCB submitted that it would file the report during the course of the day. It stated that the test in regard to Dioxineand Furan could not be conducted by the laboratory of the Board in as much as the laboratory was shut down for renovation etc.

NGT directed the CPCB to take the sample and get the same analyzed either from its own lab or any of its recognized laboratory and place the analysis Report before the Tribunal before the next date of hearing. Learned Counsel appearing for MoEF submits that he would take instruction s from the Ministry both in regard to the prescription of standard for PM as well as what is the fate of the Appeal preferred by the Project Proponent against the direction of the Board dated 3 rd July, 2014. 

The pleadings in NGT are complete, even written submission on behalf of the Applicant have been filed.

It is noteworthy that there is a case pending in the National Human Rights Commission in this regard. The compliant pointed out that some 100 doctors wrote letters to the Prime Minister forewarning him of public health crisis in the Okhla residential areas and seeking protection from the war chemicals and other hazardous chemicals being emitted from the municipal waste incinerator plant located amidst Sukhdev Vihar, Hazi colony and other colonies. Prior to this Delhi High Court and Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development has ruled against such hazardous incinerator/combustion technologies.  Such plants pose a grave threat to health and environment of the residential areas of Narela-Bawana and Ghazipur as well. This issue has been highlighted in an episode of Satyamewa Jayate.

Earlier, the Report of the Parliamentary Committee on Urban Development which has recommended that "Incinerator plants should be stopped in all residential areas in all metropolitan & Big cities across the country" in its latest report to the Parliament.

The report reads: "The Committee note that the Municipal Solid Waste is delivered by NDMC and MCD at the Okhla Power Plant site. Although it is claimed that "only non Hazardous Municipal Solid Waste will be treated at the facility", the fact is that Delhi's mixed municipal solid waste has characteristics of hazardous waste. MCD, Delhi government and Central Government have shown sheer callousness towards hazardous emissions from municipal incinerators that cause serious environmental and health problems to the people living not only near them but thousands of kilometers away from the source. The Committee feel anguished and dissatisfied with the reply of the Ministry that the soot in the atmosphere is reported to be within norms as it is monitored by Delhi Pollution Control Board. Therefore, the Committee recommend that these kinds of Waste Incinerator Plants should be stopped in all residential areas in all metropolitan & Big cities across the country."  It endorses the position of environmental groups and residents of Okhla.

The report states, "The Committee find that there are three major Sanitary Land Fill (SLF) sites in Delhi (Ghazipur, Okhla and Bhalaswa- Jahangirpuri,) which have turned into huge mountains of garbage and far exceeded their life span." 

The fact is Okhla is not and has not been a landfill. There is some deep mischief at work in declaring it as landfill in papers.

The report states, "During the hearing held on 15th May, 2007 in the matter relating to the stay on Govt. subsidies for projects on recovery of energy from municipal solid waste, Hon'ble Supreme Court has permitted the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to go ahead with setting up of 5 waste-to-energy projects to study the viability of such projects. Hon'ble Supreme Court also directed that no projects for waste-to-energy be taken up till 5 pilot projects are completed. As per the aforesaid direction, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy formulated "Programme on Energy Recovery from Municipal Solid Waste for Setting-up of 5 Pilot Projects". The programme provides central financial assistance @ 2.00 crore per megawatt limited to Rs. 10.00 crore per project for 5 pilot set up by State Nodal Agencies, Urban Local Bodies/ Municipal Corporations or entrepreneurs. So far 5 projects have been approved in the cities Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Pune..."

It mentions one of these five projects as M/s Timarpur Okhla Waste Management Pvt. Ltd., (TOWMCL), Jindal ITF Centre, 28 Shivaji Marg, New Delhi (Promoted by Jindal Urban Infrastructure Ltd. The location is mentioned as Old NDMC Compost plant, New Okhla tank, New Delhi.

The reference to this Okhla based plant as one of the 5 projects is deceptively worded to give the impression that it is one of those 5 projects which was approved by the Supreme Court. The RTI reply has already revealed that it was not one of those 5 projects.

More than 80 doctors from Holy Family Hospital in Okhla and some other hospitals across the city have written open letters to the Prime Minister's Office raising concerns about emissions from the Okhla waste-to-energy plant. In their letters, written on individual letterheads, doctors have said polluting emissions from the plant could lead to allergies, asthma, cancers and reproductive anomalies.  Many of these doctors also live close to the waste-to-energy plant. Central Pollution Control Board checks at the plant site have revealed dioxin emissions to be way higher than the permissible limit. Residents are extremely concerned about fly ash from the plant falling on their homes and vehicles. Delhi Pollution Control Committee issued a show cause notice to the plant in January for not meeting the air quality standard.  

"An unusually large number of patients are coming in with respiratory ailments like asthma and bronchitis which can be attributable to the high levels of pollution in Okhla caused by the plant. The Holy Family Hospital has announced plans to launch a medical college. We would like it to function in an unpolluted environment," said Fr P A George, director of the hospital.

Neonatologist with Fortis La Femme Ashu Sawhney, who lives just behind the plant, said, "Based on my experience as a pediatrician as well as various studies, I can say such pollutants cannot just cause respiratory illnesses but also learning and behavioural problems. My daughter developed asthma last year".

Another pediatrician from AIIMS Shivani Randev said, "Most children from the area are suffering from respiratory illnesses. These pollutants can cause foetal anomalies, infertility, cancer and other health issues. This is a humble request from residents, especially doctors, from the area to please help us and shut down the plant."

The social cost of this technology as a large number of ragpickers stand to lose their jobs if waste-to-energy plants are widely adopted for waste management. Though they are common in the West, there is a raging debate even there about the suitability of waste-to-energy plants. In Delhi, the issue is even more relevant because there is no waste segregation at source which is why chances of non-biodegradable waste like plastics ending up in the incinerator is high.  

This controversial killer plant is located in the vicinity of ecologically sensitive Okhla bird sanctuary and densely residential colonies in violation of all existing norms. 

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 09818089660, 08227816731, E-mail:gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com, Web: www.toxicswatch.org, Twitter: @krishna1715

How to deal with Ganga

Written By Gopal Krishna on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 | 1:55 AM


How to deal with Ganga 

First of all there has been a structural flaw in the conceptual design of initiatives for saving Ganga which is 2,525 kilometres long  across northern and eastern India and neighboring countries from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. 

Once again Supreme Court has pulled up central government for not showing urgency' in saving Ganga. It has asked for status report and road map for cleaning Ganga by September 3, 2014. Like other pillars of our democracy, the court has been involved with the Ganga issue for several years. This involvement has not altered the current state of Ganga in anyway. From now onwards, the court should hear the matter on the bank of Ganga in the polluted and dammed stretch- not in the court premises- to witness the plight of the river and decipher the true meanings of the affidavits filed by central government, state governments and other agencies.      

On June 6, 2014, four ministries - water resources, transport, environment and tourism met to discuss the road map for the river Ganga. This inter-ministerial group (IMG) on the river Ganga has been given the task of preparing a blueprint for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dream project to create an aviral and nirmal (clean and continuous) Ganga within 30 days. The IMG is headed by Nitin Gadkari with Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Tourism Minister Shripad Naik, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Minister Uma Bharti as its members along with senior ministry officials. An inter-ministerial committee of secretaries under the chairmanship of Alok Rawat, Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources has been constituted for the same. "A Cabinet note on the subject will be prepared thereafter," said Gadkari, Union Minister for Road, Transport and Shipping Ministry.

The IMG has proposed to construct 11 terminals on the banks of the Varanasi-Hoogly stretch on the river Ganga for freight movement along with barrages at every 100 kilometers. Gadkari said, "It is proposed to conduct dredging to provide a width of 45 meters and for a three meters draft (depth) to enable transport of passengers and goods between Varanasi and Hoogly on the river Ganga in the first stage of its development." Such proposal without a proper cumulative environment impact assessment gives birth to serious doubts.

During his election campaign, Modi claimed that he is contesting from the Varanasi seat because he has been called to "serve Ma Ganga." After the electoral victory a separate ministry for the river Ganga has been carved out.

Prior to these proposed initiatives by the Modi Government, a 110 page report of B K Chaturvedi headed Inter-Ministerial Group on River Ganga set by Manmohan Singh government dated March 2013 underlined the need to address three problem areas for a comprehensive solution to Ganga pollution. These were: “(i) The inadequate flow of water in the river, needed to dilute and assimilate waste; (ii) The growing quantum of sewage discharged from cities along the river; (iii) The lack of enforcement against point source pollution from industries discharging waste into the river.” The report recorded its assumption stating, “Rivers have a self-cleansing ability, which allows for assimilation and treatment of biological waste. But in the current context, where withdrawal from the river is much higher than the discharge of waste, pollution is inevitable.”
To deal with this situation, the Inter-Ministerial Group recommended mandatory ecological flow in all stretches of the river which was 50 % for the lean season flow and 20-30% for all other seasons contrary to even the pre-existing wisdom that environmental flow of the river should be at least 75 % in winters and 50 % in summers.

Besides that it recommended that for urbanized stretches mandatory ecological flow be based on quantum of wastewater released in the river and calculated using a factor 10 for dilution and suggested business as usual for power generation by 69 large hydro projects unmindful of the fact that it contributed to depletion in flow of Ganga and thereby deteriorating water quality. This was suggested as part of the UPA Government’s National Mission for Clean Ganga. It is evident that both the diagnosis of the problem and the remedial action that was suggested failed to address the root causes that threaten the existence of Ganga itself. The complicity of several organizations with the report and its recommendations revealed how environmentalism with regard to protection of Ganga was hijacked by the government.

In the meanwhile, a 2012 parliamentary committee report revealed that so far Rs 39, 225.95 crore has been spent  on cleaning of the river under various schemes or projects. As of now it can only be hoped that the initiative of the Modi government will chart a new course.  
         
The Ganga Action Plan, which used function under the Ministry of Environment and Forests has been placed under the supervision of Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, who is also in-charge of the Ganga Mission. She convened a the first National Dialogue on Ganga on July 7 2014 organised by National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) as part of Ganga Manthan, a national level consultation to facilitate interaction with various stakeholders including policy makers and implementers, academicians, environmentalists, saints and spiritual leaders from all faiths and NGOs on how to save the river.

Each Ministry within the IMG of the new government has been given specific mandate. Tourism Ministry has been asked to explore and expedite a tourism plan covering the stretch of the river starting from Gangotri, and running through Rishikesh, Hardwar and Varanasi. Power Ministry has been entrusted with the responsibility of looking after ways to harness hydro-electricity. Environment Ministry has been assigned with the task of cleaning the river, and the plan to set up a national waterway has been placed under the stewardship of the Ministry of Surface Transport and Shipping. Gadkari has been asked to prepare a feasibility study on the proposed river-route for development in a time-bound manner.

These deliberations need to be looked at in a context. Citing a World Bank document of 2009, the three volume and 909-page report titled 'United Nations World Water Development Report 4: Managing Water under Uncertainty and Risk published by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) states: "The National Ganga River Basin Authority in India, with the financial support of the World Bank, launched a programme in 2009 to clean the Ganges, to ensure that 'no untreated municipal sewage or industrial effluents would be discharged into the river by 2020'. Previous action plans did not improve the health of the river, in which almost 95 percent of the pollution is caused by sewers and open drains. This time the governmental approach has moved from a town centric approach to a broader river basin approach..."

But the UNESCO report's treatment of Ganga Basin, the largest river basin of the country which has catchment in 11 States leaves a lot to be desired. The report fails to enlist any achievement of the Ganga River Basin Authority that was set up in February 2009. It does not scrutinise whether or not the promised 'broader river basin approach' has indeed been adopted. It does not dwell on the split personality of the World Bank either.  

The Bank has been undertaking contradictory projects in the Ganga basin without any sense of accountability. It depletes water quality of Ganga by supporting dams upstream and it provides loans for improvement of water quality in its downstream. The second volume of Environmental and Social Management Framework for Bank assisted National Ganga River Basin Project document says, "The Ganga basin (which also extends into parts of Nepal, China and Bangladesh) accounts for about 26 percent of India's landmass, 30 percent of its water resources, and more than 40 percent of its population."

If the Bank knew that Ganga basin is an international river basin but it chose to refer to it as 'national' accepting its faulty description by the government. The UNESCO's report like the Bank failed to comprehend that Ganga like Mekong are trans-boundary rivers of the Himalayan watershed. 

In such a backdrop when Jim Yong Kim, World Bank President met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 23, 2014 in New Delhi and promised to help in cleaning up the river Ganga saying, "If Prime Minister Modi wants this to be a top thing to work on together, then that's what we will do. It is hard. We happen to have one of the best water specialist in the world. We will bring our A+ team here and will do everything we can to help," it did not inspire confidence. 

While the commercial benefits of damming rivers has been talked about a lot, the in-stream and off stream monetary and non-monetary benefits and advantages of flowing rivers has not been assessed so far. Does basin approach mean undertaking that assessment?

The declaration of Ganga River Basin Authority in the aftermath of the acknowledgment by the Prime Minister's Office during UPA’s regime said, "there is a need to replace the current piecemeal efforts taken up in a fragmented manner in select cities with an integrated approach that sees the river as an ecological entity and addresses issues of quantity in terms of water flows along with issues of quality" merits attention of the Modi government as well.  

One can refer to initiatives under Ganga River Basin Authority as the Third Phase of Ganga Action Plan (GAP-III) which promised a river basin approach which could have affected the quality and quantity of surface water, ground water and the survival of natural flow of the rivers in the basin. The GAP-I, which was to be completed by March 1990 was extended till March, 2000 when it was declared complete but Phase I of the Plan is not yet fully complete. GAP-II which was to be completed in 2001 was extended till December 2008. This too remains incomplete. Not surprisingly GAP-III also failed because it applied only to 79% of Ganga basin, which is in India. It did not include 13 % of Ganga basin that is in Nepal, 4 % in Bangaldesh and 4 % in Tibet. It did not factor in its relationship with the river systems and with the composite Ganga-Brahmputra-Meghna basin and its consequences. 

The fourth phase for the protection has been initiated by the Modi Government. The fact remains unless measures for protection of Ganga is in not situated in the policies of Industry, Power, Agriculture, Urban Development, Health and Environment by the central government, the governments of eleven states (Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, NCT of Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttranchal, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal), the neighboring countries, industry bodies like CII, FICCI, ASSOCHEM and PHCCI and religious organizations, this phase too will meet the fate of earlier initiatives. 

IMG will have to examine and deploy the relevance of Ganga River basin approach because the river channels have been amputated from the flood plains besides the amputation of the river channel itself.
Given the poor track record of the National River Conservation Directorate in the past and the new regime under Gadkari and Uma Bharti, it would be naïve to believe that the threats to Ganga’s existence will be identified and mitigated.

But if the Ganga basin approach is indeed adopted then as per Comptroller Auditor General's audit reports there is a need to strengthen the environmental clearance process emanating which is being weakened with each passing day. The blind enthusiasm about mega projects like Ganga Expressway and 'interlinking of rivers' scheme must factor in the fact that Ganga, an inter-generational heritage of our civilization is more important than development and the ecological entity of the river basin is non-negotiable.

Whether or not the Ganga basin approach gets the support of concerned states remains to be seen but what can be done even under current scheme of things is to review and reverse the policies like the government’s current hydro power policy because they were formulated when river basin approach was not adopted. Consequently, fragmented river valley project specific clearances are given without any considered sensitivity towards the environmental health of the river ecosystem. An environmental audit of all the industrial activities in the Ganga basin is a must because auditing and accounting are inextricably interlinked, the important pre-requisite for effective environmental auditing is sound environmental accounting.

Data on environmental costs and liabilities can be used for better decision making relating to usage of alternative raw materials, consumption of utilities like water and power, choice of processing technology based on environmental cost of treating discharge into water, adverse environmental aspect and impact on flora fauna and human beings and treatment of byproducts.

In the face of limitations encountered by National Water Quality Assessment Authority, one of the immediate needs of the basin is to take urgent steps to restore the water quality by seeking Zero tolerance towards hazardous chemicals, waste water and depletion in the natural flow due to uncalled for hydro projects adversely affects the water quality.

Here is a litmus test for the new Government vis-à-vis protection of Ganga. Pursuant to the Cabinet note on Ganga, to begin with by issuing an enforceable order banning discharge of industrial effluents and domestic sewage into Ganga, its tributaries and the ground water aquifers of the Ganga basin, it can demonstrate its political will and its commitment for saving the holy river.

Gopal Krishna     
Ganga Bachao Samiti
(Ganga Protection Committee)

P.S: The Ganga basin outspreads in India, Tibet, Nepal and Bangladesh over an area of 10,86,000 Sq.km. 
In India, it covers states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Union Territory of Delhi draining an area of 8,61,452 Sq.km which is nearly 26% of the total geographical area of the country.  

The basin is bounded by the Himalayas on the north, by the Aravalli on the west, by the Vindhyas and Chhotanagpur plateau on the south and by the Brahmaputra Ridge on the east. 
The Ganga originates as Bhagirathi from the Gangotri glacier in the Himalayas at an elevation of about 7,010 m in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand.

At its source, the river is called as the Bhagirathi.

It descends down the valley upto Devprayag where after joining another hill stream Alaknanda, it is called Ganga.

The total length of river Ganga (measured along the Bhagirathi and the Hooghly) up to its outfall into Bay of Bengal is 2,525 km.

 The principal tributaries joining the river from right are the Yamuna and the Son. The Ramganga, the Ghaghra, the Gandak, the Kosi and the Mahananda join the river from left. The Chambal and the Betwa are the two other important sub- tributaries.

The major part of basin in Indian territory is covered with agricultural land accounting to 65.57% of the total area and 3.47% of the basin is covered by water bodies.

The basin spreads over 239 parliamentary constituencies comprising 80 of Uttar Pradesh, 40 of Bihar, 40 of West Bengal, 25 of Madhya Pradesh, 16 of Rajasthan, 12 of Jharkhand, 8 of Haryana, 5 of Uttarakhand, 4 of Chhattisgarh, 2 of Himachal Pradesh and 7 of Union Territory of Delhi. But these MPs have failed to demonstrate required political will to set matters right in Ganga basin without pandering to the interests of polluters, mutilators and dam builders who sponsor their elections.     

Work commencing on Ganga Waterway involving 4 states

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, August 08, 2014 | 2:36 AM

The idea of Ganga Waterway is to ensure that between Allahabad and Haldia there is a depth of three meters in Ganga for navigation. In this regard a team of World Bank visited Gaighat, Patna. The team comprised of Peter Macqueen, Gurmukh Singh, Ravikant, Arnab Bandhopadhyay and others.

A team of World Bank and Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) visited Varanasi on August 4 to undertake a survey of the Ganga for the proposed project. The project to develop National Waterway (NW-I) Haldia-Allahabad would require an expenditure of Rs 4,200 crore. The World Bank has been approached for technical assistance and investment for the project. The Bank had in July 2014 indicated its readiness to support the project, with an initial loan assistance of $ 50 million, including technical assistance. 

Between Allahabad- Varanasi and Varanasi-Buxer there are two barrages proposed which is going to be constructed by a Danish company. A 45 meter wide waterway is planned to carry cargo ships of 1200-1500 ton capacity. The depth of Ganga between Patna-Buxer is too low. 

The Bank team visited National Inland Navigation institute (NINI), the first national institute of the IWAI at Patna wherein Captain  I V Solanki, Project Director gave a presentation about NINI. The Bank team left for Kolkata by the ship of IWAI on the morning of August 6, 2014. (Friends, colleagues and conrades from Kolkata alone can share information about what transpired between state officials, Bank officials and the officials in Farakka and Haldia). After their Kolkata visit the team may have gone to Jharkhand.

Among several aspects that has been ignored the tortoise sanctuary, a wildlife protected zone under the Wildlife Protection Act-1972 faces threat. 

This message as a follow up of the discussion on the impact of Farakka barrage on the Ganga in the context of the proposed barrages for Ganga Waterway between Allahabad to Haldia which happened in Patna on 31st July, 2014,The discussion happened at the Conference Hall of the Bihar State Disaster Management Authority.  A resolution was adopted at the conference which is being sent to the concerned authorities in the state and at the centre.

In order to protect Ganga and to respond to threats to Ganga from blind infrastructural interventions, corporate crimes and apathy of citizens, a committee for the protection of Ganga was formed following inputs of the participants like Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala, Dr D K Mishra, Safdar Imam Qadri, Dr Kalyan Rudra, R K Sinha, Anil Prakash, Ranjeev, Prof. Santosh, Ram Bihari Singh, Mahendra Yadav, Pushpraj, Kavindra Pandey, Gopal Krishna, Manisha Jha, Anoop Kumar, Satyendra Prasad, Zakiuddin,  Dineshchandra,  Chandrashekhram, Anshuman Raja, Parminder Singh and other eminent citizens, 

It is quite disturbing that this project is being initiated without learning any lessons from the failure of Farakka barrage. Modi government plans to construct barrage/dams at every 100 km between Allahabad to Haldia. Thus, there is a proposal for some 16 barrages/dams. It should be opposed the way Ganga Expressway project was successfully opposed to ensure survival of Ganga for the coming generations. 

This Rs.4, 000-6000 crore project will get the support of all those who will get share in this project besides international financial institutions like World Bank.

Nitin Gadkari, Union Surface Transport & Shipping Minister who also holds the portfolio of Rural Development has announced plans to develop inland waterways in the Ganga from Varanasi to Hooghly via Bihar. He plans to create multi-purpose terminals for commercial use. 

If this is how Rs.1-lakh crore ‘Clean Ganga’ project plans to move, its fate will not be any different from the initiatives of Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. 

The minister's river consciousness is shaped by rivers of Maharashtra. He has no consciousness of Himalayan rivers. 

The impact on the entire trasnboundary Ganga basin must be examined to comprehend the cumulative environmental impact of the proposed project keeping in mind the experience with  2,240 metres long Farakka barrage across Ganga in West Bengal, roughly 16.5 kilometres from the border with Bangladesh near Chapai Nawabganj district. Its construction was started in 1961 and completed in 1975.  

The purpose of the barrage was/is to divert 40,000 cusecs of water from the Ganga to Hoogly river for flushing out the Kokata harbour from the sediment deposition without the need of regular mechanical dredging. After commissioning the project, it was found that the diverted water flow from the Farakka barrage is not adequate to flush the sediment from the river and there are regular land/bank collapses in to the Ganga river due to the high level back waters of the Farakka barrage. Substantial high land is already converted in to low level river bed causing displacement of huge population.

Similar fate awaits the barrages that are planned for Ganga Waterway project. The silence of the opposition parties of all shades in these three states in particular is quite stark.

Ganga Waterway project must be looked at in the context of Clean Ganga project, the proposed Interlinking of rivers project and the efforts for safeguarding Himalayan ecosystem because experience world over suggests that such projects are first disaggregated to divide people and blunt people's resistance.  

Social organisations, academic institutions and concerned citizens of Uttarakhand, UP, Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar and Ganga basin must join hands to take stock of the proposed project and its adverse impact besides examining the claimed benefits from the Ganga Waterway project. There is a need to set up citizens committees in the cities across 1620 kilometers of Ganga stretch for regular exchange of information and action plans. The exercise cannot remain confined to the immediately affected states, it must include all the states and countries in the Ganga basin across its length and breadth.    

Gopal Krishna
Ganga Bachao Samiti 
(Ganga Protection Committee)
Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660
E-mail:gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com
Twitter:@krishna1715  

US Judiciary Denies Justice Yet Again to victims of UCC’s environmental disaster

Written By Gopal Krishna on Friday, August 01, 2014 | 3:40 AM



Bhopal Plant constructed by Union Carbide Corporation (UCC)’s employee Lucas John Couvaras
 
August 1, 2014:  Indeed ‘the central question remains “whether UCC played a sufficiently direct role in causing the hazardous wastes to seep into the ground to be held liable.” The simple answer is yes, it did have a direct role because the Bhopal Plant constructed by Union Carbide Corporation (UCC)’s Project Manager Lucas John Couvaras.  But on July 30, 2014, in the attached 45 page decision, the New York federal court ruled that UCC could not be sued for ongoing contamination in and around the plant despite evidence to the contrary.  Couvaras was a UCC employee during the relevant period. For all these years UCC kept this fact hidden. In a glaring act Judge John F Keenan of United States District Court, decided to deny the opportunity of deposition to Couvaras.

Now the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear the plaintiffs’ appeal. EarthRights International had filed the lawsuit Sahu v. UCC on behalf of residents of Bhopal whose land and water are contaminated by waste from the UCC’s plant. The state of Madhya Pradesh which now owns the Bhopal site has also been named in the case.  

Through its Project Manager, UCC had final authority over even detail design, including of the waste disposal system. Couvaras’s own declaration states that he “was a UCC employee assigned to UCIL from 1971 to the end of 1981, to manage the engineering and construction of the plant based on proprietary UCC design.” T R Chauhan, a former employee of Union Carbide India Limited of UCC from 1975 to 1985 also submitted a declaration that Couvaras was a UCC employee “who was sent to India to oversee the detail design and erection of the plant”. The Definition of Services between UCC and UCIL states that UCC’s Chemicals and Plastics Engineering Department provided “a project manager on loan to UCIL for the project.” Couvaras’s own declaration avers that he was “a UCC employee assigned to UCIL from 1971 to the end of 1981, to manage the engineering and construction of the plant.

Despite taking on record the fact that UCC provided the MIC process technology for the Bhopal plant, the Court commits a blunder in arguing that waste disposal issues at UCC’s Institute plant is not relevant to the waste disposal issues at the Bhopal Plant. It appears to be a case of sophistry wherein by referring to different methods for waste disposal at Bhopal and Institute, the reference to latter is deemed irrelevant because the waste disposal strategy at Bhopal “lacked key components of the Institute system”.

Feigning incomprehension of facts, the court does not draw on the import of the contention that “UCC’s Institute plant, which also used the MIC process, had problems with leaks and discharged more toxins than its permits allowed”.

A letter from UCIL to the Indian Department of Industrial Development dated September 30, 1982, seeking approval for continued collaboration on MIC-based pesticides with UCC demonstrates latter’s continued involvement in the Bhopal Plant.

The court has chosen not to pierce the corporate veil and DEBUNK the myth that “international affiliates are separate legal entities” and chooses to be indulgent towards UCC.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) holds that US judiciary is known for anti-people, anti-public health and anti-environment decisions. The US Environmental Protection Agency issued a final rule on July 12, 1989, banning most asbestos-containing products. After spending ten million dollars and conducting a ten year study, USEPA accumulated a 100,000 page administrative record, announcing that it would phase out and ban virtually all products containing asbestos. This ban was to apply to the manufacturing, importing, processing and distribution of asbestos products.  US EPA's grounds for the ban states: "asbestos is a human carcinogen and is one of the most hazardous substances to which humans are exposed in both occupational and non-occupational settings. But the verdict of October 18, 1991 by the Fifth Circuit US Court of Appeals of New Orleans in the asbestos matter overturned the ban imposed by USPEA. Giving a severe blow to the reputation of US judiciary, the Appellate Body of World Trade Orgnisation, World Health Orgsanisation and several other UN agencies besides more than 50 countries found that USEPA was right because it is impossible to use asbestos in safe and controlled manner.

Ironically, in the US, Dow Chemicals Company, the owner of UCC has set aside $2.2 billion to address future asbestos-related liabilities arising out of the UCC’s acquisition.  Dow purchased UCC and its Indian investments in 1999 has consistently denied inheriting any liability for the Bhopal gas disaster due to leakage of 40 tonnes of lethal methyl isocyanate gas from UCC plant into the surrounding environment, which has caused more than 20,000 deaths and lakhs of disabilities.
UCC formerly made products containing asbestos, and UCC once mined asbestos for sale to customers. The mine of the UCC was sold in 1985. Hundreds of thousands of people have sued asbestos companies that made products containing asbestos. Many manufacturers of asbestos-containing products are bankrupt as a result of asbestos litigation. If Dow can assume responsibility for asbestos-induced illnesses among victims in USA, how can it deny responsibility towards the victims of Bhopal disaster and its continuing toxic legacy in an explicit case of double standards?
Madhya Pradesh High Court has rightly held Dow responsible for the clean-up of the contaminated site in a ongoing case.  

The “Bhopal Plant” was operated from 1969 to 1984. It was closed following the disaster on 2-3 December 1984. UCIL was incorporated in India in 1934.

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660, E-mail:gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com, Web: www.toxicswatch.org

 
Copyright © 2013. ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) - All Rights Reserved
Proudly powered by Blogger