Earlier this week, news emerged of plans to transfer 350 metric tonnes of toxic chemical waste from the former Union Carbide premises in Bhopal to Germany for incineration. On Monday 28th May, Additional Solicitor General for India, Gaurab Banerjee, told India’s Supreme Court that “the Centre will bear the cost of disposal (approximately 9 million Euros) but will recover it from Dow Chemicals”.
This may be the first time that the Indian government has explicitly attached liability for the Bhopal factory site contamination linked to Dow Chemical alone. Dow has continuously denied “successor liability” for ongoing civil, criminal and environmental cases which seek redress for Union Carbide’s gross negligence in Bhopal. Dow, who merged Union Carbide in 2001, has also refused to submit to the jurisdiction of Indian courts in the forthcoming civil compensation case.
The Supreme Court have criticized the government for their delay in making a decision for the future of the waste which has remained at the abandoned site for nearly 28 years. The government was urged to make a decision with the Group of Ministers at the end of June 2012. Local government officials say they “seriously working on a plan” to send the waste to Germany for incineration.
Greenpeace India have additionally asserted that Dow should fund the waste disposal, spokesman Rampati Kumar declared “It is absolutely unacceptable that the Indian government should use public funds to pay for cleaning up the mess left by Union Carbide.” However, other environmentalists have voiced concerns over the waste being airlifted to Europe.
The 350 million tonnes in question is not the entirety of the toxic chemicals abandoned by Union Carbide. An additional 27,000 tonnes will remain in Bhopal, buried under toxic evaporation ponds which continuously leak into the environment and the local water supply.