The government has set up an oversight committee to coordinate and monitor the clean-up of the Bhopal gas leak disaster site, even as three scientific bodies submitted their final reports and recommendations on the environmental damage and the remediation process.
The committee, which was one of the recommendations made by the Group of Ministers on the issue last month, will be chaired by Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh, and co-chaired by Madhya Pradesh Minister for Gas Relief Babulal Gaur. It was set up as a compromise, ending the tug of war on who would control the Rs. 310 crore remediation process, which is being paid for by the Centre, but implemented by the State.
The 16-member panel's mandate is to provide technical, financial and logistical oversight and support to the State government in taking steps toward waste disposal, decontamination and remediation. More than quarter of a century after the disaster, toxic wastes continue to contaminate the soil and groundwater in and around the site.
The committee includes representatives of the Union Ministries of Environment and Forests, Chemicals, and Science and Technology. State government members include representatives from the Environment, Finance and Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Ministries, as well as the Commissioner of Bhopal.
The chairmen of both the Central and State Pollution Control Boards are on the committee, as well as the heads of three scientific agencies – the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) and the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT).
Available to public
All three agencies have now submitted their reports on the environmental damage and the remediation process, which will be available to the public on July 8. The government has agreed to subject the reports to a peer review by scientists jointly appointed by the Department of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The main conclusions will also be shared with selected NGOs who will be invited to give their suggestions in writing within 30 days.