Cheer up. There is some good news for the survivors of Bhopal gas
tragedy, the world’s worst industrial disaster, including the NGOs
working for them and the Madhya Pradesh Government as far as
disposing off the toxic waste lying in the erstwhile killer Union
Carbide pesticide plant, which has become an enigma of sorts for one
and all, is concerned.
The good news is that a technology known as Plasma Thermal
Destruction Recovery, (PTDR), of a company christened as PEAT
International, is available in India to clean up the Bhopal Union
Carbide plant’s toxic waste effectively and cleanly at site itself
without having to transport the hazardous material to any far off
place for its disposal. It can be disposed off at the site within
the premises of the Union Carbide factory at Bhopal without creating
any collateral damage to the environment and / or the people living
in the surrounding areas of the facility, claims Peat International.
According to Pradeep Mathur, CEO India for PEAT International India,
if the said technology is adopted for the treatment of this waste,
then the problem will be completely resolved, requiring no further
treatment and without any requirement of land filling, the company
claims. The facility once constructed will be available for treating
other wastes even after the treatment of the waste is completed.
Talking to this correspondent Mr. Mathur said the cost of the
treatment is also very nominal. For about 350 metric tonnes (MT)
toxic waste, PTDR-100 unit would suffice and the cost may come
around to Rs. 50 to 60 million only. It is interesting to note here
that the Union Government has earmarked Rs. 3000 millions for the
350 MT toxic waste kept in the factory godown. Thus, this cost
amount of Rs. 50 to 60 million would be just 1.5 per cent of the
sanctioned amount Rs. 3000 millions which is dam cheap.
It would be better in the interests of the survivors and the Madhya
Pradesh Government itself if it contacts the Peat International
India officials as soon as possible and discuss the whole issue of
toxic waste disposal immediately without any delay. After taking
overall view of the matter the state Government must weigh the
options available to it so far with the huge cost involved. It
should initiate steps for it on priority basis at the first go
looking at the very cheap cost involved to solve the issue which has
been hanging on fire for over last 25 years.
PEAT International (“PEAT”), which is headquartered in Northbrook,
Illinois, its chairman being Mr. Joseph Rosin, is a
waste-to-resources company specializing in the deployment of its
proprietary PTDR technology for the treatment and recycling of a
wide range of waste feed-stocks, including: industrial, universal
and medical waste.
According to Mr. Mathur the novel and patented PTDR technology uses
heat generated by plasma torches in an oxygen starved (pyrolysis)
environment to first pull apart (dissociate) the molecules that
make-up the organic portions of the waste, then, depending on the
composition of the waste stream, a controlled (stoichiometric)
amount of oxygen is added to reform the dissociated elements of the
waste into a synthesis gas ("Syngas"), consisting mainly of Carbon
Monoxide (CO) and Hydrogen (H2). The Syngas can then be used in a
variety of ways: as a fuel for thermal or electricity production or
as a feedstock for the production of liquid fuels (i.e. ethanol).
Mr. Mathur said PEAT’s PTDR 100, a 60 kilograms-an-hour system,
would be ideal for the 350 MT toxic waste. The PTDR 100 is an ideal,
turn-key solution for treating this kind of waste on-site without
undertaking the danger of moving this dangerous and volatile waste
to a treatment facility. A PTDR 100 unit costs approx. Rs. 40
millions as initial Capital Cost. The treatment Cost would be about
Rs. 20 per kg. The PTDR 100 unit takes only about 100 sq. metre of
space and can be stalled in 6 months time. Operating at 60 kg / hr
PTDR-100 can finish the 350 MT in about 10 months time from the
start of the toxic waste treatment, Mathur revealed.
He claimed that the PTDR technology has received numerous regulatory
approvals throughout the globe, including: Taiwan Environment
Protection Agency; Taiwan Ministry of Education; Kaohsiung
Department of Environment Protection; Virginia Department of
Environment Quality; Alabama Department of Environmental Management;
City of Huntsville Natural Resources Division; San Diego Air
Pollution Control District; Sacramento Air Pollution Control
District; Indiana Department of Environment Management; Michigan
Department of Environment Quality; California Department of Public
Health and Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.
It may be mentioned here that the ghost of disposing off the toxic
waste is haunting the Madhya Pradesh Government, the survivors of
the gas tragedy and the NGOs working for them alike.
The Government is concerned only about the 350 MT stocked in the
godown of the factory. While the survivors and the NGOs are very
much perturbed over the enormous quantity of the waste amounting to
18,000 to 25,000 MT or may be even more spread in the campus of the
factory and in the solar evaporation ponds which has leeched into
the soil and contaminated drinking water reserves of the people
living in the vicinity of the factory. There is an urgent need to
detoxify the soil in order to stop contamination of water.
The point of contention is how to dispose off this toxic waste
without harming the environment and the populace together with
carrying it this highly poisonous material safely to any far off
disposal site ruling out possibility of any mishap. The huge cost
involved to carry out this operation is another overriding factor.
If the enormous quantity of the waste amounting to 18,000 to 25,000
MT spread in the campus of the factory and in the solar evaporation
ponds is taken up then the cost would be mind boggling.
If the survivors and the NGOs stand is taken about the enormous
amount of toxic waste being 18,000 to 25,000 MT or more then PTDR
100 plant would not be suitable. At PEAT International there are two
larger plants – the PTDR 500 / which can treat 9 tons per day, and
the PTDR 1000 / which can treat 30 tons per day. A PTDR 500 would
require 2,000 working days – whereas the PTDR 1000 would require 600
days. The type of waste is not an issue – because all PTDR units can
handle all types of poisonous materials.
A PTDR 500 – the Capital Cost is approx. Rs. 250 millions and it
requires about 750 sq. metre of space. The PTDR 1000 – the Capital
Cost is approx. Rs. 800 millions and it requires about 2,850 sq.
metre of space. Depending upon the type of waste – the above units
would also generate surplus Electricity for supply to the grid.
Meanwhile, it may be pointed out here that the judiciary is also
seized of the matter of toxic waste disposal. The Madhya Pradesh
High Court adopted a strict view of the toxic waste lying at the
defunct Union Carbide factory, on August 17 again directed Dow
Chemicals to present all the documents pertaining to the merger of
the two companies. The court set September 30 as the deadline for
submitting the documents and posted the next hearing for October 26.
An NGO Gas Kand Trasdi Morcha had filed a PIL before the Jabalpur
High Court, seeking the fixing of responsibility for the disposal of
the toxic waste. The double bench of the High Court comprising
Justice Arun Mishra and Sushma Srivastava repeated the direction
issued at the last hearing, ordering Dow Chemicals to present the
merger agreement and documents pertaining to properties before the
court by September 30. Though, the Union Carbide owned the factory
at the time of the Gas Tragedy, Dow Chemical later took over the
pesticide manufacturing giant.
It may be recalled here that on the intervening night of December
2-3, 1984, 40 MT of poisonous Methyl Iso-cyanate spewed out from
Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal killing thousands of people
and maiming nearly half a million others. The fall out of the
disaster has been that people who inhaled the gas have been dying
and death over the years has crossed 25,000 mark and is still