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Peer review committee hand in glove with Dow Chemical: NGOs

Thursday May 26, 2011 10:01:52 AM, Pervez Bari,

The abandoned Union Carbide pesticide factory's aerial view in Bhopal

Bhopal: Leaders of five organizations working for the survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal have condemned the recommendations of the government appointed Peer Review Committee, (PRC), on remediation of toxic contamination in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory.

In a letter submitted on Wednesday to the Chairman of the Oversight Committee on Bhopal Environmental Rehabilitation, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, who was here in Bhopal on Wednesday to chair the meeting of Oversight Committee on Bhopal Environmental Remediation here, the five NGOs charged that the recommendations of the PRC were unscientific, unilaterally decided and were designed to help Dow Chemical get away from its Bhopal liabilities by paying a pittance for environmental remediation.

The five NGOs protesting the recommendations of the PRC are: Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh, (BGPMSKS); Bhopal Group for Information and Action, (BGIA); Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha, (BGPNBSM); Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, (BGPMPSM); & Children Against Dow Carbide, (CADC).
Goldman Environmental prize winner Rashida Bi of BGPMSKS who took part in the meeting organized by the Oversight Committee today, said that two of the members of the PRC have direct links with Dow Chemical Company, USA that, as 100 per cent owner of Union Carbide, USA is legally liable for the toxic contamination in and around the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal.

She pointed out that the Mumbai-based Institute of Chemical Technology, whose director Prof. G. D. Yadav is a PRC member, has jointly instituted an award with Dow Chemical since 2009. Similarly, another member of the PRC, Dr. Rama Rao is a member of the advisory board of InnoCentive Corporation of which Dow Chemical is a member. A third member of the PRC, Dr. Arbinda Mitra works with the NGO, India US Science & Technology Forum, that was set up with 7 million USD from the US government, Rashida Bi said.

Satinath Sarangi of BGIA said that majority of the seven-member PRC have long association with the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, (NEERI), and the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research, (CSIR). She said that the bias of the PRC is evident by its deliberate disregard and out of hand dismissal of adverse comments by experts from the Indian Institutes of Technology in Mumbai, Chennai, Kharagpur, Delhi and Kanpur on the environmental assessment report by NEERI and other CSIR agencies.

According to Balkrishna Namdeo, President of BGPNBSM, seven Bhopal survivors organizations had presented a scientific review of the NEERI report by waste management experts from The Netherlands, Australia and UK but the comments of these experts have been dismissed out of hand by the PRC. He said that the PRC has run roughshod over critical opinions of the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi, Hazards Centre, New Delhi, Greenpeace International and other non-governmental agencies.

Calling for the immediate scrapping of the PRC’s recommendations and reconstitution of the Committee to ensure that there were no members with conflict of interest, Nawab Khan of the BGPMPSM stated that the survivors of the Bhopal disaster will not allow the implementation of the recommendations of the PRC at any cost.

He said that thousands of victims of Union Carbide will physically stop the transportation of 350 MT of Union Carbide hazardous waste till they are satisfied that they will be safely disposed off. The Oversight committee was sent strong comments by independent experts stating that there was no incinerator in the country able to incinerate the Union Carbide waste without the release into the atmosphere of heavy metal vapors and dioxin - the most toxic chemical known to man, he revealed.
Nawab warned that any move to dismantle the factory structure will face the wrath of the victims who insist that the structure is conserved as a memorial to the world’s worst industrial disaster. The PRC has also ignored the positive interests shown by UNESCO in preserving the Union Carbide plant site as a modern industrial heritage site, he added.
He was reacting to the Jairam’s reported announcement that Centre is contemplating to demolish the building of the now defunct Union Carbide factory in Bhopal due to mercury contamination. However, a final decision in this regard will be taken only in July-August this year after the Madhya Pradesh State Government and NGOs present their case before the Centre, he added.

Mr. Ramesh has said that the State government and the NGOs were free to put their point across and make a presentation against flattening of the Union Carbide factory’s building.

It may be recalled here that on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, 40 metric tonnes (MT) of poisonous Methyl Iso-cyanate spewed out from Union Carbide's pesticide plant in Bhopal killing thousands of people and maiming nearly half a million others. The fall out of the disaster has been that people who inhaled the gas have been dying and death over the years has crossed 25,000 mark and is still counting.
Meanwhile, it may be mentioned here that a technology known as Plasma Thermal Destruction Recovery, (PTDR), of a company christened as PEAT International, is available in India to clean up the Bhopal Union Carbide plant’s toxic waste effectively and cleanly at site itself without having to transport the hazardous material to any far off place for its disposal. It can be disposed off at the site within the premises of the Union Carbide factory at Bhopal without creating any collateral damage to the environment and / or the people living in the surrounding areas of the facility.

According to Pradeep Mathur, CEO India for PEAT International India, if the said technology is adopted for the treatment of this waste, then the problem will be completely resolved, requiring no further treatment and without any requirement of land filling, the company claims. The facility once constructed will be available for treating other wastes even after the treatment of the waste is completed.

Talking to this correspondent Mr. Mathur said the cost of the treatment is also very nominal. For about 350 MT toxic waste, PTDR-100 unit would suffice and the cost may come around to Rs. 5 to 6 crore (50-60 million) only.

It is interesting to note here that the Union Government has earmarked Rs. 300 crore (3000 millions) for the 350 MT toxic waste kept in the factory godown. Thus, this cost amount of Rs. 5 to 6 crore would be just 1.5 per cent of the sanctioned amount Rs. 300 crore which is very cheap.





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