Toxic Waste : German firm develops cold feet
25 Sep 2012
Berlin: A German firm has claimed that it withdrew its offer to dispose of 350 tonnes of toxic waste from the Bhopal gas disaster site because it did not receive any contract to do the job from the Indian or the state governments.
“We operate on the basis of contracts and no contract for the disposal of the waste came from the Indian side” even after three months of negotiations, a spokesperson for the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), a German government development agency, told.
The GIZ announced last week that it retracted its offer to incinerate in Germany hazardous waste lying for nearly 28 years at the premises of the defunct Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal citing lack of progress in its negotiations with the Indian government.
The negotiations, which began shortly after the GIZ made its offer in June, were intended to finalise a deal and to decide where the hazardous waste from the world’s worst industrial disaster will be incinerated.
The GIZ was planning to call a Europe-wide tender to dispose the waste in the event of winning the contract.
The spokesperson gave no details of how the talks got stalled even though a high-level Group of Ministers chaired by Finance Minister P Chidambaram had in July sanctioned a plan to transfer the waste to Germany and allocated Rs 25 crores (USD 4.5 million) for its airlift and disposal.
The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, on whose behalf the GIZ implements various development projects around the world, also had cleared the plan to incinerate the toxic waste from Bhopal to Germany.
The Indian cabinet had given its approval for the negotiations on a contract with the GIZ, but “they could not be brought to a successful conclusion”, the spokesperson said.
One sticking point could be the question of who will take the responsibility for the risks and costs for possible transportation accidents on the German soil, according to some media reports. The GIZ wants the present owner to be fully responsible for the waste until its final disposal.
It also wants a bank guarantee to cover the costs if an accident occurs during the transportation of the lethal cargo to the intended incineration site, the reports said.
The GIZ said in its press statement last week that the failure to bring the negotiations to an end within the envisaged time had “increased the uncertainty on both sides and also among the German public.”
German experts have examined the waste dump at the premises of the Union Carbide plant ahead of the agency making its offer to India and established that it can be handled by one of more than a dozen incineration plants in this country.
Over 15,000 people were killed and thousands became permanently disabled when deadly methyl isocyanate gas leaked out of the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal on the night of December 2, 1984. The disaster also caused irreparable damage to the health of around 50,000 people.