You have three months to give Carbide victims clean supply, Madhya Pradesh told

The Supreme Court has set a three-month deadline for the Madhya Pradesh government to ensure supply of clean drinking water to victims of the Bhopal gas leak tragedy living in settlements around the Union Carbide Factory. They have been forced to drink contaminated water for over 30 years.

The court this past week also directed the setting up of a five-member Monitoring Committee with the executive chairman of the M.P. State Legal Services Authority as its chairman to oversee the Bhopal Municipality carrying out the task of providing fresh water to the 18 affected areas near the plant.

“The entire exercise should be completed within three months from the communication of this order to the chairman and other members of the committee and both the State government and the Bhopal Municipal Corporation shall ensure that the work does not suffer or is not obstructed on account of inadequate or insufficient funds,” said a two-judge Bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and J. Chelameswar.

The groundwater contamination, however, does not have anything to do with the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, but was generated during the normal course of the working of the Union Carbide Factory, from where toxic wastes started seeping into groundwater in the adjoining areas.

The court had in 2005 directed the M.P. government that clean drinking water be expeditiously supplied to the settlements. In the present case, it was hearing an application filed by the Bhopal Group for Information and Action for non-execution of the order in its full spirit as the work had been progressing very slowly.

An affidavit filed by the M.P. government stated it had already taken steps to supply drinking water through over-ground pipelines and provide each household with a tap connection but the process would take “some” time to complete.

‘Double whammy of diseases'

The court, however, relied on the submissions of the organisation's lawyer Karuna Nundy, who submitted that the chemicals in the groundwater were known to cause cancer, birth defects and other chronic diseases in people for about 27 years now. She further contended that the people had been subjected to a “double whammy of diseases,” first because of the gas leak and then because of groundwater contamination.

The court has directed the newly appointed Monitoring Committee to submit a report of the work undertaken on August 13.