In the lead up to the 20th anniversary of the worst industrial disaster in history, an independent team of experts (1) today presented recommendations for a clean up operation of the contaminated Union Carbide (UC) site in Bhopal that could be carried out following international standards (2).
At the symposium organised by Greenpeace, Professor Harald
Burmeier, a civil engineer with almost 30 years of experience in
hazardous waste management said: "The remediation of the site must
include dismantling of the existing building and plant, the
excavation and pre-treatment of polluted soils and the assembly of
discarded stockpiles and it has to be done as a first step in the
clean up process."
Forty tons of lethal gases leaked from Union Carbide pesticide
factory in Bhopal on December 3rd 1984. However, the site also
bears a deadly toxic legacy from years of routine plant operations,
deadly chemicals have spread through out the local environment and
drinking water supply. Experts agree that the most urgent measure
is to immediately secure the site, prevent any access to it and
supply safe pipelined water to the local communities.
The specialists suggested detailed technologies for the
decontamination of the site as well as the clean up of the ground
water using internationally recommended standards. A key
recommendation is that the site should not be transformed into a
landfill or any other long-term storage of hazardous waste. They
also proposed the shipment of the stockpiled chemicals and other
hazardous waste from India to developed countries for
"A longer-term remediation focusing on the clean up of the
underground water is also a vital step, but one that will take many
years to complete due to the complexity of the site and the unknown
extent of contamination," Burmeier added.
In February 2001, UC merged with DOW Chemical Company and became
a wholly owned subsidiary of DOW. "The biggest obstacle to clean up
the Bhopal factory has been the lack of corporate responsibility
and the political will to make it happen. Clearly the
responsibility of bearing the cost of the clean-up lies with Dow
Chemicals, and the Indian government should ensure that the company
does not escape its responsibility," said Vinuta Gopal, campaigner
with Greenpeace India.
Greenpeace and International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal
(ICJB) are calling on DOW to take up their full responsibility for
the clean up and are calling on the Indian government (3) to secure
a swift solution for the ongoing tragedy now that we are
commemorating the 20 anniversary of the disaster.
Notes: (1). Team of experts: Dr. Jurgen H. Exner, Chemist; Franz Schenker, Hydrogeologist and Harald Burmeier, Civil Engineer (2). Summary of recommendations available upon request(3). On June 23 2004, the Government of India issued a "No Objection" to a New York district Court to demand Union Carbide to clean up the site in Bhopal