Bhopal toxic waste not to be burnt at Pithampur; may be shipped out

The group of ministers formed to study the latest ramifications of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy have abandoned the earlier plan to burn down 350 tonnes of toxic industrial waste at a privately run facility at Pithampur, some 300 km from Bhopal.

Apart from the unprecedented loss of human lives, the gas leak left 390 metric tonnes of toxic waste, of which 40 mt has already been transferred to a landfill site in Pithampur. The remaining 350 mt was also supposed to be sent there, according to an earlier GoM plan.

The reversal of the earlier decision follows strong opposition from local communities, environmentalists, and elected representatives. A technical committee will examine other options for the disposal of the waste in the next two months, environment minister Jairam Ramesh told newspersons in New Delhi today.

Reportedly, the GoM is now considering four possible options for disposing the waste. It could be co-incinerated in a cement kiln, or buried at the site of the Union Carbide factory, or disposed at the DRDO hazard facility in Nagpur, or – perhaps most far-fetched of all - shipped out to a European Union country or some other country willing to accept it.

Ramesh said that the Central Pollution Control Board will get in touch with various organisations to pursue the possibility of shipping the waste out.

The technical committee had been formed to undertake a peer review of reports by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), Hyderabad and the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad on the level of contamination at the Union Carbide factory and surrounding in Bhopal.