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