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GIZ proposal on disposal of Dow's Bhopal toxic waste

Written By Krishna on Sunday, May 20, 2012 | 3:42 AM

The Madhya Pradesh government on May 18 held discussions with a German company over disposal of toxic waste lying in the defunct Union Carbide plant here.

The Madhya Pradesh Minister for Bhopal Gas Tragedy, Relief and Rehabilitation, Babulal Gaur discussed the issue with the representatives of a German company, officials said.

The proposal on disposal of toxic waste submitted by the GIZ company of Germany in accordance with the orders passed by the Supreme Court was discussed at the meeting, official sources said.

Business Standard reported that the final decision on the matter will, however, be taken by the Union Government, according to officials.

Water, and justice, for Bhopal

The Supreme Court order directing time-bound provision of safe drinking water to 18 long-suffering residential areas around the Bhopal gas tragedy site highlights two things — the slow pace at which even the highest judicial intervention produces results in India, and the persisting pollution threat to the health of thousands. In fact, the same court had directed that protected water be supplied to 14 localities around the Union Carbide plant in May 2004 (four more were added subsequently). The Centre claimed that a series of measures were taken by the Madhya Pradesh government to comply with the order, but not much relief has been available to the residents. The Municipal Corporation of Bhopal is yet to provide tap connections to households. Moreover, the water supplied is yellowish, with a heavy flat taste even today, involving consequences for health. Sadly, as governments have come to regard this 27-year-old industrial catastrophe as just another chronic problem, the residents have to bear the terrible consequences of this continuing denial of their right to a healthy life. It is welcome, therefore, that the Supreme Court has finally set a three-month deadline for water supply and appointed a fresh monitoring committee. The M.P. government must not prolong the misery of the victims and do everything to fulfil their needs.

The safe supply of water to the densely populated areas hit by the gas tragedy is essential to eliminate the public health threat. But there is also the question of disposing of some 350 tonnes of hazardous waste lying in the abandoned Union Carbide India factory premises. Here again, neither the Centre nor the M.P. government appear anxious to conduct a speedy operation. This, in spite of a new option available to avoid Indian disposal sites, and hand it over to a German firm that can move the hazardous material to Hamburg. It must also be emphasised that, while the responsibility of the Centre and the M.P. governments to remediate Bhopal is paramount, it does not mitigate the claim on Dow Chemicals for its liability towards Union Carbide's failures. Faced with global ridicule for its attempts at greenwashing through a ten-year Olympics sponsorship, Dow has disingenuously described its critics as “irresponsible.” If anything, it was its own decision to acquire the assets of a disaster-hit Union Carbide and disclaim any liability for the tragedy that calls for severe reproach. The proper course would have been to own up, to engage in a comprehensive clean-up and rehabilitation exercise, and to compensate victims in full. The immediate task, however, is to alleviate the physical misery of the victims by providing them a clean environment and good water.

Keywords: Bhopal gas tragedy, Bhopal drinking water issue, Union Carbide plant, Bhopal victims
May 11, 2012

Supreme Court asks Group of Ministers on Bhopal to decide on toxic waste

The Supreme Court on May 11, 2012 asked the Group of Ministers (GoM) on Bhopal to decide expeditiously on the disposal of 350 tonnes of toxic waste of the Bhopal Gas tragedy.

In its reply, the Centre informed the court that the GoM is yet to take a final decision on this issue. However, it said, the GoM will be given a notice within two weeks if they fail to come up with a solution to the crisis.

The top court said, considering the importance of the issue, it is ready to sit and hear the case during the summer vacation. A Supreme Court bench has sent a request to the Chief Justice of India to fix a date for the hearing.

The court observed, "our concern is very simple. This waste must be disposed off without causing any injury to a single person." Criticising the Centre and the Madhya Pradesh government for delay in resolving the crisis, the top court said, "if we say it has become a game of football when will it end? Even the T-20 cricket match ends in two and a half hours."

Last month the court had directed the Madhya Pradesh government to dispose of the toxic waste of Union Carbide plant at the Pithampur waste disposal plant, 200 Km away from Bhopal by July.

While the Centre wants Pithampur to be finalised as the spot for the disposal, the state government has been opposing that. The main contention of the state government is that the Pithampur waste treatment storage and disposal facility (TSDF) is yet to be made operational. The state government fears that the disposal would kick up another disaster because if the temperature is not kept in check it could turn into toxic gas. It also fears stiff resistance from the locals too.


Union Carbide files petition in Supreme Court for disposal of Bhopal gas disaster case

PTI May 6, 2012

NEW DELHI: US-based Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) has filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding early hearing on the government's curative petition in the Bhopal gas disaster case, saying delays are being used to besmirch the reputation of its parent firm, Dow Chemicals.

UCC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company (TDCC), in the petition sought a fixed timetable for hearing and early disposal of the curative petition filed by the Union Government in December 2010, seeking to reopen the settlements granted by the apex court in the Bhopal gas disaster case.

It said that its parent firm, TDCC had no connection with the events at Union Carbide India Ltd's Bhopal factory in 1984. TDCC had acquired UCC in 2001, 17 years after the Bhopal gas tragedy and 12 years after the settlement of claims.

The plant from which the gas leak occurred was owned by Union Carbide India Ltd, in which UCC owned 50.9 per cent stake at the time of the tragedy in 1984. Union Carbide India Ltd continues to exist and is now known as Eveready India Ltd.

UCC in the petition stated that it has not merged with its parent firm, TDCC, whose sponsorship of the London Olympics has created a controversy here.

Allegations that TDCC has failed to clean up the toxicity of the plant site are baseless, it said, citing the 1991 ruling of the Supreme Court which stated that UCC had no further liabilities after payment of the $425 million compensation.

"However, the fact that the Curative Petitions are now pending has given a handle to the NGOs, purporting to represent the interest of the victims of the Bhopal tragedy, to once again make this kind of allegations against the UCC and its parent company," the petition said.
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