There are 128 sites in India contaminated by toxic and hazardous substances, according to a March update by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). West Bengal led the list with 27 sites followed by Odisha at 23. Including those, there are 324 sites that may be contaminated, with 196 still awaiting an investigation and confirmation.
The Union Environment Ministry has been monitoring — and has begun to commission clean-up jobs — at sites known to be contaminated.
Twenty sites in 6 States have seen agencies prepare a detailed project reports, or a plan of action, to clean up sites. Such action follows orders by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). There are four such sites in Kerala (Eloor-Edayar), Odisha (Ganjam, Orichem) Tamil Nadu (Ranipet), Uttar Pradesh (Rania, IPL and Deva Road), West Bengal (Nibra village), Madhya Pradesh (Ratlam).
These incidents include oil contamination due to leakage of underground oil pipelines of Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited in Tamil Nadu, pesticide and heavy metal contamination in creeks at Eloor, Kerala, chromium contamination at Rania, improperly disposed electronic waste lying on the banks of river Ramganga, Moradabad; mercury contamination of the soil at Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, and Ganjam, Odisha, and chromium contamination at Ranipet, Tamil Nadu, and Lohianagar, Uttar Pradesh.
Independent organisations have long warned that India has a poor track record in dealing with chemical accidents. According to ToxicsLink, an organisation that deals with hazardous waste disposal, there have been four major chemical accidents recorded, on average, every month between 2016-2019 and several accidents are not duly recorded.
A committee constituted by the NGT in a report, last January, on the state of the management of hazardous waste (HW) in India noted that “... the inventory as prepared so far is not very comprehensive and cannot be taken as holistic representative of the actual scenario of HW management.”