Plants used to remove hazardous waste

When the government's oversight panel meets in Bhopal on May 25 to examine various options to dispose of the 350 tonnes of toxic waste lying at the Union Carbide plant, and the million tonnes of contaminated soil at the site of the 1984 gas leak disaster, the novel idea of bio-remediation may also pop up on the agenda.

Admitting that “the potential of bio-remediation has not been explored fully for Bhopal,” Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told reporters here on Thursday that he “hopes this will be considered as part of the next exercise.”

Bio-remediation uses plants to remove hazardous waste from contaminated soil, water and air — enhancing nature's own clean-up tool. It's one of the most cost-effective methods, showing quick and visible results, according to Mr. Ramesh.

“After the toxic residue [in Bhopal] is transferred to a landfill, the landfill can then be cleaned using bio-remediation,” confirmed M.N.V. Prasad, a plant sciences professor at the University of Hyderabad who authored a report on the potential use of bio-remediation in India that was released by the Ministry on Thursday.

The Ministry is spending Rs. 20 crore on bio-remediation projects this year. The first, to clean up a key nallah in Ludhiana has already been launched, while three cities on the Ganga — Allahabad, Patna and Farukkhabad — will use bio-remediation to clean their drains. A demonstration project at the Malanjkhand copper mines in Madhya Pradesh will also be taken up, in collaboration with Hindustan Copper.