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Rules violated in clearing Union Carbide waste; impact ignored

Mahim Pratap Singh

Bhopal: The Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board had cleared the trial run of the incineration of hazardous waste lying on the Union Carbide factory premises here, overlooking several violations of Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules.

The MPPCB gave the clearance after the go-ahead from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) which had earlier found the incineration facility technologically ill-equipped to handle the waste.

Six workers were seriously injured and partially lost their vision after being exposed to the toxic waste during the trial run last Friday.

The trial incineration was conducted in the absence of the Multiple Effective Evaporator (MEE) and the Mechanical Stabiliser System (MSS).

The Madhya Pradesh Waste Management Project (MPWMP) facility at Pithampur, near Indore, run by the Hyderabad-based Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd., was granted the Consent For Operation by the MPPCB on March 18, 2010, ignoring the environmental fallout of the process and the fact that the facility did not fulfil the technical requirements.

According to the Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, any Common Transport Storage and Disposal Facility (CTSDF) involving hazardous waste requires the installation of an MEE and the MSS.

In September 2008, the CPCB issued a notice to the MPWMP regarding non-compliance with the directions of the CPCB as per Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The notice directed the facility to install the MEE and the MSS without which the “facility shall not procure any incinerable hazardous waste.”

Major concerns

There are major concerns involving the incineration process at the facility, as highlighted in the March 2007 inspection report of the CPCB zonal office in Bhopal.

The report noted that the location of the CTSDF was “not proper as it is located within 500 metres of the nearest village, Tarapura…has direct bearing on the village [with] no buffer zone of 2 km” between the village and the CTSDF.

The report further noted that “the construction [of the CTSDF] was not done as per CPCB guidelines.” More or less similar concerns were also raised in the CPCB zonal office's monitoring report of January 2008.

The reports were submitted to the CPCB Member-Secretary in 2008. However, in a January 2010 letter, the CPCB granted permission to the facility for the trial run “in case the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board agrees.”

Similar concerns were raised by the MPPCB regional officer at Dhar, P.K. Trivedi, in a letter written in 2009 to Aparna Bapat, in-charge of the board's regional lab at Indore.

Residents of the village near the facility, along with those in Pithampur, have been protesting against the incineration of the toxic waste of Union Carbide at the said facility.

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