Stalemate over Bhopal waste disposal

A case between the Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh governments pending before the Supreme Court over disposal of nearly 350 metric tonnes of toxic waste lying at the now defunct Union Carbide India Ltd...

Written by Tannu Sharma | New Delhi | Published: March 11, 2009 3:02 am

Centre wants it to be incinerated at Ankleshwar,Gujarat says already a huge backlog

A case between the Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh governments pending before the Supreme Court over disposal of nearly 350 metric tonnes of toxic waste lying at the now defunct Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) — now Dow Chemicals — plant in Bhopal for over 24 years seems far from being settled.

Last week,the Centre submitted before an apex court bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan that the waste must be incinerated at Ankleshwar in Gujarat where it would barely take a week’s time. Opposing the submission,the Modi Government claimed that it had a backlog of around 15,000 metric tonnes of waste,making it impossible to dispose of the Bhopal waste within the state. It said the waste should be disposed of in MP at its upcoming incinerator facility at Pithampur.

The issue reached the apex court after Gujarat challenged an order of the MP High Court clearing the transportation of the toxic waste from Bhopal to Ankleshwar by the end of January 2009. Gujarat submitted before the Supreme Court: “There is an increasing problem of rise in toxic waste in the state and there is a total backlog of about 15,000 metric tonnes. If there is a facility in MP that is capable of storing and incinerating the hazardous waste,it will be more practical and safe if the same is directed to be incinerated in MP instead of in the petitioner state (Gujarat).”

The apex court on January 19 advised the Centre to intervene and settle the matter as the uncertainty over the fate of the toxic waste had been prevailing for more than two decades. The waste is reportedly causing air,soil and water pollution.

In compliance of earlier directive,Deputy Secretary,Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers,Yashvir Singh informed the bench,also comprising Justices Markandeya Katju and P Sathasivam,that a meeting was called on January 30,2009 which was attended by chief secretaries of both states as well as officials from state pollution control boards.

However,the following day,chairman of company — Bharuch Enviro Infrastructure Limited (BEIL) — operating the incinerator at Ankleshwar expressed inability to dispose of the waste citing backlog of large volumes of hazardous waste with its member industries. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in its reply before the High Court had urged that the waste must be disposed of in the incinerator at Pithampur in MP,”which is about 180 km from the site and won’t have to be taken to 680 km away to Ankleshwar causing further threat to environment and humans in the process.”

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