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Dow's Bhopal Waste Comes to Supreme Court

Written By Gopal Krishna on Wednesday, December 24, 2008 | 11:19 PM

The Gujarat government has decided to move the Supreme Court over the issue and asserted that the toxic waste cannot be allowed to be disposed at Ankleshwar after the interim order of High Court of Madhya Pradesh directing Dow Chemicals's Bhopal toxic waste to be incinerated in Gujarat with a warning of contempt proceedings if attempts were made to stop it.

Gujarat government had already filed a petition and even obtained a stay against the threat held earlier by the Madhya Pradesh High Court to initiate contempt proceedings against it and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB).

Gujarat argued that the toxic waste be moved to Pithampura, about 180 kms from Bhopal, where the Madhya Pradesh government has already developed a dumping site.

Gujarat also relied on the observations of Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, which in their April 2004 report, had stated that groundwater of the area is so polluted that it is not fit to drink, to argue its course.

It was following that report that an order was passed directing Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh Governments to supply fresh drinking water through tanks or pipes.

According to PTI, villagers in Jitali and surrounding villages near Ankleshwar have decided to launch an agitation opposing the Madhya Pradesh High Court order allowing the disposal of 346 tonnes of toxic waste of the Union Carbide at a unit there.

As per the High Court order, Union Carbide waste is to be disposed off at a plant called BEIL (Bharuch Enviro Infra Ltd) at Ankleshwar.

Jitali gram panchayat 'upsarpanch' (deputy village headman) Mehboob Bhai and other office bearers of the panchayat claimed this would risk the lives of the people staying just 500 meters away from BEIL.

They claimed the facilities there were not enough to take care of toxic waste and demanded court officials should visit Ankleshwar for verification.

Chairman of water works committee of the village, Siraj Keli claimed that people want that waste should be incinerated before disposal at Ankleshwar so that they can avoid any possible hazard.

Meanwhile, Rohit Prajapati of Vadoara based Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti criticising the order of the High Court, asked how it could direct the Government of Gujarat, "which is not a party in the case".

Sources in Gujarat Pollution Control Board said that it has its own backlog of 7,000 tonnes of toxic waste waiting to be incinerated at BEIL and asked how could they allow solid waste from another state for disposal.

Disregarding an objection raised by the Gujarat Government, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has directed that 350 tonnes of toxic waste, lying at the site of the 1984 gas tragedy in Bhopal, be incinerated at Ankleshwar. In its interim order, a Division Bench of Chief Justice A K Patnaik and Justice Ajit Singh warned that obstruction to disposal of the waste by any individual or institution will be treated as a contempt of court, advocate Naman Nagrath told The Indian Express on 17 December.

The court had earlier ordered disposal of the waste at Ankleshwar, but the Gujarat Government had opposed it, first by citing opposition from local NGOs and later because of a fire in the incineration facility. The Gujarat Government had challenged in the Supreme Court the contempt of court proceedings initiated against it.

On 16 December, the High Court took cognizance of a report submitted by a team that visited the Ankleshwar facility on October 15 after the Gujarat Government's opposition. The team said at the time of its visit only stock that would have taken 30 days for incineration was waiting for disposal and that the Bhopal waste could be disposed of after that.

The disposal of the waste has been a point of disagreement among the NGOs in MP with some arguing that Dow Chemical should be asked to clean up and ship the waste to the US. About 40 tonnes of the hazardous waste from the site was recently disposed of in Pithampur in Madhya Pradesh. The Government had carried out the operation at night to pre-empt the NGOs, which warned that they would not let the waste to be removed.
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