Union minister of rural development Jairam Ramesh has written to Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Union environment minister Jayanti Natarajan urging them to consider getting the Union Carbide hazardous waste incinerated at Hamburg, Germany instead of Pithampur, Indore.
Mr. Ramesh, as former union minister of environment and forests, had been involved in regarding all aspects of the Bhopal gas tragedy, including environmental remediation.
Mr. Chidambaram is the chairman of the government appointed Group of Ministers (GoM) on the Bhopal gas tragedy.
In his letter dated 19th April 2012, Mr. Ramesh has requested Mr. Chidambaram to consider the option of getting the 350 metric tonnes of union carbide waste incinerated by German firm GIZ (German Agency for International Cooperation/Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit), formerly known as GTZ.
A copy of the letter is also marked to Ms. Natarajan.
“...the GoM under your chairmanship had originally decided to have this waste disposed off at Pithampur. Subsequently I had visited Pithampur on 10th July 2010...given the extreme opposition that was expressed by the Madhya Pradesh CM and local residents, I had requested you to reconsider this decision and not proceed with the incineration at Pithampur.”
“The proposal from GIZ presents a new option which, I think, should be considered by your GoM,” Mr. Ramesh has written.
GIZ recently offered the M.P. government to incinerate the waste in Germany for “approximately 1.5 million Euros/INR 9 crore 75 lakh”, a proposal the State government had been “seriously considering”, as state environment minister Jayant Malaiya recently hinted.
According to the Madhya Pradesh government, GIZ's offer is for a fraction of the cost offered by waste management firm Ramky Enviro Engineers, which was supposed to incinerate the waste in Pithampur, Indore for Rs.36 crore.
There is around 350 metric tonnes of hazardous waste lying in the UCIL factory in Bhopal, the disposal of which has consistently proved to be a non-starter.
Recently, the Supreme Court had authorized the Ministry of Environment and Forests to direct the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board and the Central Pollution Control Board to conduct a trial-run of the incineration at Pithampur, near Indore.
However, residents of villages near Pithampur, along with local NGOs, have been protesting against the incineration of the waste at Pithampur.
The residents' concerns are not without basis. During an earlier trial run of the incineration at Pithampur in 2010, six workers were seriously injured and partially lost their vision after being exposed to the toxic waste.