Senior govt scientist wary of burning Bhopal waste

NAGPUR: The disposal of Union Carbide waste at Nagpur seems to be moving towards a bigger controversy. After private incinerator manufacturer Thermax wrote to an NGO that India has no facility to safety burn the waste, a senior government official has expressed a similar view. Principal scientific adviser to government of India Dr R Chidambaram has also recommended exploring the possibility of burning the waste at the plant site in Bhopal.

Dr Chidambaram was one of 31 experts asked by ex-MoEF minister Jairam Ramesh to comment on the sample analysis of Bhopal waste done by city-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri). He has stressed that if the disposal was not proper it could lead to hazards of catastrophic proportion.

Commenting on the report Dr R Chidambaram raised doubts about the safety of burning waste and also doubted whether India had a safe facility to deal with the Bhopal waste. However, the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has so far not clarified which method will be used to dispose off waste at its Nagpur facility. Activists have been assuming that it would be incinerated.

Raising doubts about the sampling by Neeri and other agencies, he stressed that assuming that a standard incinerator would thermally oxidize (burn) and detoxify the waste stored at the site may not be a right assumption. Secondly, choice of incineration as a method to destroy the waste should be arrived at only after a thorough study, he said.

Dr Chidambaram pointed out that Union Carbide plant would have produced many different types of pesticides. Secondly, no one has possibly studied the data related to the raw material used as well as intermediate and finished goods produced by the plant across its life to corroborate the waste analysis done by Neeri.

Thus a cross check was vital, as the waste was a heterogeneous mixture of randomly heaped raw material, intermediates and final products (both quality passed and rejected). He further stressed that a waste open to atmosphere has weathered over 26 years, and would have certainly undergone physicochemical transformations that are not so easily detectable by sampling.

Dr Chidambaram had outlined the design of an incinerator to dispose off the waste. He mentioned six vital characteristics. His report also mentions it was quite unlikely that any waste incinerator in India would satisfy all six conditions. Even if one were to manufacture a machine, he said.

Source: The Times of India

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