The Group of Ministers (GoM) for the Bhopal gas tragedy have drawn up plans for the 350 metric tonnes of waste remaining inside the abandoned Union Carbide premises to be exported to Germany for incineration.
The final go ahead for the proposals will be decided upon at the next GoM meeting on the 8th June 2012. Representatives from the German Academy for International Cooperation (GIZ), the German agency who will oversee the disposal met with the GoM in Bhopal on May 17the 2012. GIZ had previously quoted the Madhya Pradesh Government the price of 9 million Euros to incinerate the waste in Hamburg, northern Germany. This is far less than quotes for the disposal of the waste in India.
The Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Minister for Madhya Pradesh, Babulal Gaur, announced that the Union Environment and Forests Ministry had consented to the amendment of disposal rules earlier this week at a meeting in Delhi. “We have already discussed the issue with the representatives of the German company. It will happen soon,” stated Babulal Gaur confidently.
Multiple survivors organizations have stressed the need for a long-term view regarding the waste disposal. These groups emphasize that the 350 tonnes of waste that has been proposed for disposal is by no means all of the toxic remains, and that in fact, a further 27,000 tonnes of waste is buried in unlined pits and under solar evaporation ponds around the 67 acre factory premises.
The waste in question originates from regular dumping of chemicals between 1969 and 1984 by Union Carbide at the plant in Bhopal, prior to the leak of the deadly methyl isocyanate gas that claimed the lives of 20,000 people.
Campaigners have additionally voiced concerns that incinerating the waste outside of India will rid Dow chemical, who bought Union Carbide in 2001, of the responsibility for the on-going disaster in Bhopal. Removing the toxic waste will provide little consolation for the thousands of people who continue to suffer as a result of the gas leak and its aftermath.
In previous years proposals to dispose of the waste in other cities in India have been contemplated, initially at a facility close to Nagpur, and later near Taloja at Mumbai Waste Management. These plans to incinerate the waste in India were met with anger from local people living in the proposed areas, who expressed worries over another potential disaster. Residents are relieved with the decision to incinerate the waste elsewhere. “We are happy it is not happening in Madhya Pradesh,” Bhopal activist Rachna Dhingra agrees. “But the authorities must be careful that the process of transport of this waste from Bhopal to the port be done carefully.”
The plan is for the waste to be airlifted to the facility in Hamburg by GIZ. Plans to move the waste abroad came from suggestions that the international community may be better equipped to deal with such large quantities of hazardous waste.