Chemicals ministry to submit Bhopal report to PMO: Bhopalis satisfied with progress on demands

26 April, 2006. New Delhi
The Ministry of Chemicals will submit a detailed report to the PMO by April 26 on the setting up of a National Coordinating Committee on Bhopal. The Committee, which will include survivors’ representatives, will coordinate long-term medical and economic rehabilitation efforts, the construction of a memorial to the disaster, and oversee the provision of clean drinking water for the 16 communities whose water is contaminated with Carbide’s poisons. A team led by Mrs. Satwant Reddy (Secretary, Ministry of Chemicals) and comprising Mr. Yashvir Singh (Director, Bhopal Gas Cell, Ministry of Chemicals) and Mr. K.C. Misra (Jt. Secretary, Min of Chemicals) visited Bhopal on 18-19 April, 2006, following up on their assurance to Bhopal victims who had walked to Delhi from Bhopal to protest against the long-pending issues of survival facing the victims. The delegation met gas victims, residents of water contamination affected areas and representatives of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal ki Awaaz, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha and Bhopal ki Awaaz on 18 April in Bhopal. The delegation also separately met members of the Indian Council for Medical Research and the Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh Government to discuss the modalities of the Coordinating Committee on water, and medical and economic rehabilitation. They have requested survivors organisations to submit a proposal for economic rehabilitation, and identify groups of potential beneficiaries for rehabilitation. The Committee is expected to be up and running in three months time.
“We are very happy at the speed at which the Ministry of Chemicals is moving ahead on these issues of life and death for the victims of Union Carbide. We hope that they will influence the Madhya Pradesh Government to begin supplying water immediately through tankers to all 16 affected communities in line with the May 2004 Supreme Court order because the summer is already upon us,” said Champa Devi Shukla of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh. Champa Devi is both a gas victim and a resident of water-contamination affected area.
Bhopal activists have clarified that only water from Kolar dam would be acceptable to them. The MP Government has already sunk borewells alongside a sewage channel in Raslakhedi, and has constructed water storage sumps, including on land that is part of Carbide’s toxic waste dump. “Raslakhedi water is already contaminated in several places, and is in the direction of the pollution plume from the factory. The Government wants to kill us, one way or the other,” says Shehazadi Bee, a resident of Blue Moon Colony, and one of six people who sat on a fast for justice in Bhopal earlier this month. According to local reports, the BJP Government in the State plans to use Rs. 2 crores to supply cleaner Kolar dam water to Ayodhya Nagari, a developing residential area with a predominantly middle-class Hindu population.
They have also said that work on the memorial should not begin until the site and its surroundings are cleaned up at the cost of the polluter.
On 17 April, the Prime Minister had met Bhopal victims and activists and assured them of action on clean water, clean-up of toxic wastes, and setting up of a coordinating committee on medical and economic rehabilitation. The PM also said the Government would explore legal options to enforce the “polluter pays” principle. Separately, the Ministry of Chemicals has assured survivors that they will make a case for participation of survivors in the design and running of the Bhopal memorial. Bhopal activists called off their indefinite fast on 17 April, the 7th day of the fast, based on the assurances from the Government.
For more information, contact: Madhumita Dutta (New Delhi): 9968015475. Satinath Sarangi (Bhopal): 0755 2730914

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