Transporting the material over 357 km to Butibori will pose its own problems

The Maharashtra government has filed an intervention appeal before the Jabalpur Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court against its order of July 12 to incinerate toxic waste from the former Union Carbide plant in the Defence Research and Development Organisation facility at Butibori near Nagpur. The government has appointed a special team of lawyers to assist in the case which will be heard on Thursday.

Environment Minister Sanjay Devtale told the Assembly on Wednesday, in response to a calling attention motion by Sardar Tara Singh and others of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that the State government would approach the Supreme Court, if necessary, to oppose the burning of toxic waste at Butibori. Mr. Devtale said that to move the hazardous waste in this case, the permission of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh governments, was needed. This was not done before the order by the court. It was the DRDO at Gwalior which said that the waste could be burnt at Butibori.

Mr. Devtale said there were no storage facilities at the Butibori incinerator and the total waste amounted to about 350 tonnes. Transporting the material over 357 km to Nagpur would pose its own problems.

The Madhya Pradesh government, after a Supreme Court order, had burnt some 40 tonnes of waste at Pithampur, before local protests put a stop to that.

The waste from the Bhopal plant which had been lying around since the world's worst industrial accident on December 2-3, 1984, contains halogenated compounds and heavy metals, among other things, which could release toxic dioxins when incinerated. The Maharashtra government submitted that there was no facility to incinerate such toxic compounds anywhere in the country.

After the court order of July 12, allowing the incineration of the toxic waste, Devendra Phadnavis, BJP MLA, Jan Manch, and the Vidarbha Paryavaran Kruti Samiti filed a public interest litigation petition with the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High court. Mr. Phadnavis said the Nagpur Bench stayed the incineration and directed the petitioners to approach the Jabalpur bench since the case was heard there. After this, the Jan Manch filed a separate petition on the issue which will also be heard on Thursday.

Earlier, the Madhya Pradesh High Court had ordered the waste to be burnt at Ankleshwar in Gujarat. The Gujarat government went to the Supreme Court opposing this. The apex court asked the Centre, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh governments to sort out the matter. Later, at Pithampur, a multi-effect evaporator was set up on an experimental basis and some 40 tonnes of toxic waste was burnt there.

The Maharashtra government contended that there was an order from the Supreme Court to dispose of the waste at Pithampur, and yet the new order shifted that responsibility to the Butibori DRDO unit. It was unfair to burn toxic waste there after the people of Pithampur had opposed it on the grounds of air and water pollution.