To commemorate the 25th anniversary of India’s worst ever chemical disaster, which claimed thousands of lives on the intervening night of December 2, 1984, the state government is making a detailed plan to open the Union Carbide’s closed premises for the public, after a National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri) clearance.
So far the premises are under round-the-clock security and a visitor requires a prior permission of the district collector to enter the campus. “We are contemplating to open it for public soon for a certain period,” SR Mohanti, secretary, Bhopal Gas Relief and Rehabilitation department, told Business Standard. On the other hand, an NGO and the mishap affected have said they will file a case of contempt of court against any such move.
Neeri director T Chakrabarti in a letter (a copy of the letter is available with BS) to the state government on November 4, 2009, has said: “I concur with the decision that the Union Carbide factory will be opened for general public for a period of 15 days in connection with the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal gas tragedy. The reason for concurring with the above mentioned idea lies in the fact that I, along with several government officials, have visited the site umpteen number of times without experiencing any health problem.
The experts from the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, Central Pollution Control Board officials, officials from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and officials from the MP Pollution Control Board, who were with me on different occasions, did not experience any health problem as I still continue with them even today. Therefore, I am concurring with the idea of BGTR&R decision of allowing general public to visit the plant site from the distance of twenty feet as proposed in yor (government’s) letter.”
An activist of the Bhopal Group of Action and Information – an NGO fighting for the survivors, Rachna Dingra, said, “We will file a contempt of court in the Jabalpur HC against this move as the court on October 29, 2005 had ordered that the factory could not be opened for general public as tonnes of toxic waste was lying in the premises. A task force has already been constituted in this regard. The Neeri has in its reports said the premises have lethal toxic waste.”
On Neeri’s recent letter she reacted, “There is a difference between visit of a scientists’ and experts’ team and general public’s visit. We will challenge this anti-public attitude and plan.”
A government source said, “The state government wants to open the premise to public under security and from a distance of twenty feet. A letter for proper security to the police has already been sent.
Chief Minster Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be informed about the plan. Accordingly the premise will remain open for 15 days, ie, from 25 of this month to December 5. An all-religion prayer, exhibition and screening of a documentary, will mark the commemoration.”