Business Standard, April 8th, 2008
A massive fire that consumed 120 tonne of unknown toxic wastes at Bharuch Environ Infrastructure’s (BEIL) toxic waste treatment and storage facility in Ankleshwar, Gujarat on April 3 has triggered calls from the survivors of the Bhopal Union Carbide gas disaster of 1980 against dumping the carbide waste anywhere in India.
Of the 8,000 tonne of waste which lay buried in the carbide site in Bhopal, 345 tonne of toxic waste was to be removed to Ankleshwar for incineration as per Madhya Pradesh High Court orders.
P M Bhargava – a member of the High Court appointed technical committee – who had advised the Madhya Pradesh High Court against sending Union Carbide’s waste from Bhopal for incineration at this facility today said that the fire underlined the gist of their warnings against dumping carbide waste in Ankleshwar or anywhere in India.
The technical committee has in fact recommended disposal of the waste in the US which has facilities for destroying the toxins of the carbide plant.
Rohit Prajapati of Gujarat-based Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti said at a press conference: “The fire disaster in Ankleshwar was handled very poorly. Till date no information has been made available to the public regarding what was burnt in the fire, what is stored on site, and what to do in the event of a disaster.”
According to Prajapati, this is both against the law and counter to the lessons learnt from the Bhopal disaster. Prajapati was part of a 4-person civil society team that visited Ankleshwar to ascertain the situation after the fire disaster.
The Environmental Protection Act and the Factories Act mandate disclosure of information relating to hazards posed by chemicals to workers and public. However, Gujarat Pollution Control Board refused to divulge this information even under Right to Information, Prajapati said.
The pollution was so intense that three villages were to be evacuated according to early news reports. However, no evacuation happened as the District Administration neither had an evacuation plan nor a disaster management plan.