New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday put on hold its order directing disposal of toxic wastes lying in the Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) plant, now represented by DOW Chemical Company, in Bhopal at the Pithampur waste treatment storage and disposal facility (TSDF) in Madhya Pradesh`s Dhar district.
The apex court deferred the implementation of its April 4 order in the wake of various issues raised by Madhya Pradesh government and some NGOs about the "possible fall-out of the trial run" for the disposal of UCIL wastes and the fact that the "Group of Minister (GoM) considering the issue is yet to take a final decision".
“We do not want that a single life should be affected," a bench comprising justices GS Singhvi and SJ Mukhopadhayay said while stressing that "waste disposal has to be carried out without harming any individual".
The bench indicated if the GoM comes out with a decision, preferably within two weeks, the matter could be heard during the vacation and a request could be made to the Chief Justice of India for constituting a bench to hear it.
The court noted that despite the suffering of the people for the last 28 years, the Centre and the state government have failed to arrive at the modalities for disposal of the toxic wastes lying at the erstwhile factory of UCIL.
It also made clear that though there was a proposal for disposal and incineration of wastes at Pithampur facility, it would not like that any harmful affect would arise in a new place as the nearest village was only half a km away from the site.
The bench noted the submission of senior advocates Ravi
Shankar Prasad and Rajiv Dhavan, appearing for Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board and the NGO, Bhopal Action Group, that people in Pithampura was against the proposal and there was all-round support for the disposal of the waste by a private German company.
It also took on record the statement of the Solictor General that though the Centre wanted the trial run for the disposal to start on May 30, the GoM was yet to take a final decision.
"Having regard to the various issues raised by Madhya Pradesh government and NGOS about the possible fall-out of the trial run for disposal of UCIL wastes at Pithampura and the fact that the GoM is considering the issue and has yet to take a final decision, we propose to defer the implementation of our order," the bench said.
The NGOs have also pointed out that the Pithampura facility, located 200 km from Bhopal, is yet to be made operational.
The apex court had on April 4 passed the order after the Solicitor General had drawn its attention to the minutes of the meeting held on February 22 and stated that the trial disposal of 10 metric tonnes of UCIL wastes will be undertaken at Pithampura TSDF within a period of three months and a report to this effect will be submitted before the Madhya Pradesh High Court at the end of three months` period.
The bench had said that in view of the statement of the Solicitor General, Madhya Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board and Central Pollution Control Board shall take all the steps necessary for ensuring effective implementation of the decision taken in the meeting held on February 22.
The order was passed following an appeal against the High Court`s interim decision that directed the Centre to appear through the Environment and Forests Ministry Secretary to explain what is to be done with the 350 tonnes of toxic wastes lying at the UCIP since 1984 when the Bhopal gas leak disaster had occurred.