Just six weeks after the Bhopal state government was ordered to finalise plans for the disposal of the remaining waste in Bhopal, this week news revealed that the German government agency who had offered to incinerate the waste have withdrawn their offer.
For the past few months, state owned German development agency, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) have been in contractual negotiations with the government of India over the disposal of the toxic waste left at the abandoned factory.
The 350 tonnes of waste has said to not be directly linked to the deadly gas which leaked from the plant in 1984, instead originated from the indiscriminate dumping of hazardous chemicals by Union Carbide over several years prior to the leak.
The Union Carbide factory and its surroundings have remained heavily contaminated with poisons for the past 27 years whilst the previously recovered waste in question, remains awaiting destruction at different sites nearby.
Local campaigners who have been lobbying the Madhya Pradesh government to dispose of the waste and provide a full remediation of the site, stress that in addition to this recovered waste, the waste remaining on the ground around the site must also be acknowledged. For the past twenty-seven and a half years the toxic chemicals at the site have been leaking into the ground water causing second and third generations of survivors to be born with congenital defects.
GIZ’s termination of their previous offer may in part be due to the revelation of the plans in the German media which have initiated a hostile environment in Germany. Environmental protests against the airlifting of the waste to Germany have come from organizations such as Greenpeace and Bund. The public revelations have damaged the image of GIZ who no longer feel they can offer their services in this matter. “We have made an assessment of the situation in Germany and decided that it would be in the best interests for strong Indo-German cooperation not to pursue this project further,” said GIZ. Until now, issues of liability prevented the contract from ever being signed between the two parties.
Despite Supreme Court orders that a decision on the clean up must be made in the near future, the Indian government have so far refused to comment on Germany’s sudden withdrawal of services.