Bhopal verdict very unsatisfactory, says Jairam Ramesh

New Delhi, June 8 (Calcutta Tube) Terming the verdict in the Bhopal gas disaster ‘very unsatisfactory’, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh Tuesday said his ministry will focus on strictly implementing the environment protection law to ensure such incidents do not occur in future.

‘It is a matter of deep anguish for me personally, and it has taken so long, and the verdict clearly is very unsatisfactory from every point of view. It has caused understandable furore, particularly among people affected by the tragedy and civil society groups,’ Ramesh told reporters here.

He said his ministry was concerned with implementing the Environment Protection Act, 1986, brought in by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in the wake of the 1984 tragedy that killed thousands of people.

‘What I can assure people is we will be strict without fear and favour in implementing the act so that future Bhopals don’t occur,’ Ramesh said.

Speaking about measures to deal with the ongoing consequences of the Bhopal disaster, he said: ‘We have about 325 tonnes of toxic waste still at the site waiting to be incinerated and disposed off. About 45 tonnes have been done (away with) so far.’

Ramesh said his ministry had started decontamination studies both on structure as well as at the site.

Three institutions – the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), Hyderabad, the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad, and the National Environment Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur – are doing the studies, expected to be completed by June, he said.

‘In fact, for some historical reasons, the environment ministry is not the coordinating agency for the Bhopal gas tragedy in the government. It is the department of chemicals and petrochemicals which is the nodal agency. We only provide the inputs,’ he said.

A court in Bhopal Monday held the Union Carbide India Ltd and seven of its officials guilty of criminal negligence in the world’s worst industrial disaster and sentenced them to two years’ imprisonment. The seven were later released on bail.

Tonnes of lethal gas leaked from a pesticide plant of the Union Carbide in Bhopal on the night of Dec 2-3, 1984, killing about 3,500 instantly and thousands later.

Ramesh added: ‘As far as I am concerned, two things are of importance – implementation of Environment Protection Act and, secondly, we have taken a decision to locate headquarters of the National Green Tribunal in Bhopal.’

The parliament passed the National Green Tribunal Bill in the budget session. It will ensure setting up green courts in the country to deal with civil damages.

‘As a small but important gesture and out of concern and sensitivity to what happened in Bhopal, we have decided to locate the Green Tribunal in Bhopal. Bhopal was associated with Union Carbide but in future Bhopal should be associated with environmental law,’ Ramesh said.

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