Facing protests over a plan to incinerate toxic waste of Union Carbide plant in Bhopal at a disposal unit at Pithampur, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has assured villagers that a study will be conducted and locals taken into confidence before a final view is taken.
Local residents, mainly those from Tarpura village in Pithampur industrial area in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh, are up in arms over the proposal to dispose of about 350 tonnes of waste at a treatment, storage and disposal facility (TSDF) run by a private firm there.
As Mr. Ramesh visited the TSDF site on Saturday, villagers took to streets and raised slogans, demanding that it be shut down.
Surrounded by protestors, the Minister said the disposal will not be done without taking into account its impact on environment and people residing in the area.
The villagers and NGOs claim the groundwater has been contaminated after 40 tonnes of lethal waste were “secretly” dumped in the incinerator site in 2008. Mr. Ramesh said, “I did not know that Union Carbide waste was brought during night hours here two years ago. I assure you that this will not recur.”
He said the final decision on incineration of toxic waste at the site has not been taken as yet and the concerns over its effects on environment “cannot be ignored“.
“The disposal of Union Carbide waste will be done in coordination between the Centre and the state and the locals will be taken into confidence,” Mr. Ramesh said.
The Minister said an independent study will be conducted to assess what was the impact of disposal of toxic waste in the soil and environment in the areas concerned. “The study will be completed in four months and its results will be made public,” he said.
The TSDF is run by private firm Ramky Enviro Engineers.
Some NGOs are alleging that its unit lacks several necessary facilities, a charge denied by the company which said it is “not only capable of undertaking the disposal but specialises in such works“.
Protesting villagers of Tarpura, 30 km from here, had on July 8 damaged two vehicles carrying waste from a textile factory to the unit.
Trials at the facility began on May 14 and the Bhopal waste was supposed to be incinerated after three months of such an exercise.