Contamination of UCIL site remains a threat for Bhopal

CSE presents action plan, prepared in consultation with experts from across the country, to clean the site

  • Wastes dumped by UCIL in and around the plant causing massive contamination of soil and groundwater and affecting health of the people in surrounding areas

  • CSE analyses all studies done so far. For the first time, brings together all stakeholders to find a way out

  • Expert group concludes disposal of stored 350 tonnes of waste is only one small part of the bigger problem of decontamination of soil and groundwater

  • CSE presents comprehensive action plan for waste disposal and remediation 

Bhopal, August 1, 2013: Three decades after it was shut down, the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal continues to be a real danger to the people of Bhopal. Almost every study done to measure the impact of the waste dumped within and outside the site by UCIL has come up with one conclusion there is large-scale contamination in the soil and water of the area where the factory is located.

In the first initiative of its kind, New Delhi-based research and advocacy body Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has analysed all the studies and their conclusions. CSE released the key findings of its analysis here today at a media briefing. It also released a comprehensive action plan for ridding the site of this contamination.

Between 1969 and 1984, Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) had produced carbamate pesticides and organochlorine formulations. All these years, the toxic wastes and products were being dumped at several locations inside the plant and in the solar evaporation pond (SEP) outside. After the plant was shut down in 1984, this highly toxic waste was left lying on the plant premises and SEP. 

Says Chandra Bhushan, CSE’s deputy director general and the head of the Centre’s lab which conducted one of the studies: “Over the years, this waste has been a continuous source of soil and groundwater contamination and therefore, a cause of serious public health concern for residents in the surrounding areas.”

CSE has analysed about 15 studies conducted over the last 20 years to assess soil and groundwater contamination in and around the UCIL site. These studies were conducted by several non-government organisations, Madhya Pradesh state agencies, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), and Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) institutes such as the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), the National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI), the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) and the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR).

Says Amit Khurana, programme manager, food safety and toxins programme of CSE: “Most of these studies confirm contamination and have more convergence than divergence. The nature of contaminants found in the soil and the place from where they were found are similar in several studies. Contamination of groundwater has also been reported in most studies.” 

In April 25-26, CSE had organised a stakeholders’ round table on this subject in New Delhi that focused on developing a road map on remediation of soil and groundwater, disposal of toxic chemical waste, remediation of plant machinery and the fate of the site. Says Chandra Bhushan: “For the first time, such a discussion was held in which all the stakeholders sat amicably across the table and participated actively.”

Deliberations lasting two days, involved expert representatives from scientific institutions such as NEERI, IITR, IICT, NGRI, IIT-Bombay, IIT-Kharagpur, IIT-Madras and IIT-Roorkee; regulatory bodies such as CPCB; industry including those with expertise in remediation of contaminated sites; and organisations from Bhopal. 

The expert group concluded that 350 tonnes of stored waste is a small part of the total waste that is still dumped at the site and the SEP area. The bigger challenge is to decontaminate the soil and groundwater. 

Action plan
The expert group came to a consensus and has suggested a range of measures for remediation and waste disposal. Based on the criticality and required time-frame for implementation, the measures have been divided into two sections – immediate and medium/long-term.

Under immediate measures, it suggests:

  1. Securing the site and SEP area by fencing and guarding to prevent access of people, especially children, hence their exposure to toxic chemicals; stopping construction in the SEP area; and protecting annual surface water runoff from the site during monsoon

  2. Excavation and recovery of all the waste from the site; Characterisation and inventorisation of the collected waste for proper treatment and disposal

  3. Characterisation of the 350 tonne wastes that is stored at the site and the results to be shared in the public domain. Under the supervision of the CPCB and affected community, incinerable waste is to be incinerated after the stabilisation of the trial results at Pithampur 

Medium and long-term measures include

  1. Groundwater contamination assessment through detailed field investigation and lab analysis to develop a remediation plan. Possibility of hydraulic containment is to be explored as an interim containment measure

  2. Characterisation and remediation of the waste dumped in SEP area, particularly the landfill to prevent continued contamination  of the groundwater in the local area

  3. Detoxification, dismantling and decommissioning of the plant after preserving structures such as MIC plant including the vent, vent scrubber, storage tanks and control room

  4. Remediation of the UCIL site that involves building a memorial and centre of excellence for industrial disastermanagement after decontaminating the site

Says Chandra Bhushan: “The action plan is implementable and is developed out of the consensus within the expert group. It was widely agreed that this is high time to break the existing institutional logjam and the government of Madhya Pradesh should swiftly act and solve this public health concern of huge significance.”

For more details, please get in touch with Souparno Banerjee at / 09910864339.


CSE Reports
Action Plan_Environmental Remediation in and around UCIL, Bhopal
Contamination due to Union Carbide factory - December, 2009

Press Releases
In Hindi
August 1, 2013

Media Clippings

Hindu/ New Delhi/ August 04, 2013

Cleaning toxic footprints

Muslim Mirror/ August 03, 2013

Contaminated Union Carbide factory site remains a threat for Bhopal: Report

Business Standard/ New Delhi/ August 03, 2013

MP govt not ready to buy CSE remedial plan for Bhopal toxic waste

Times of India/ Bhopal/ August 02, 2013

UCIL site contamination a threat

Hindustan Times/ Bhopal/ August 02, 2013

CSE propose action plan to clean Union Carbide in five years

Hindustan Times/ Bhopal/ August 02, 2013

CSE to start Union Carbide site clean-up

Asian Age/Delhi/August 02, 2013

Carbide plant still poses threat

Business Standard/Mumbai (printed in Bhopal)/ August 2, 2013

'After 30 yrs, contamination still poses risks to Bhopal'

Deccan Herald/ Delhi/ 02/08/2013

Bhopal plant still toxic ground

Hindustan Times/ Bhopal/ August 02, 2013

Action plan unveiled for Union Carbide waste disposal

Hindustan Times/ New Delhi/ August 02, 2013

CSE to start Union Carbide site clean-up

Business Standard/ Bhopao/ August 2, 2013

Dainik Bhaskar/ Bhopal/ August 2, 2013

Dainik Jagran/ Bhopal/ August 02, 2013

Indiablooms /August 02, 2013

UCIL contamination remains a threat for Bhopal

Newswala/ Hyderabad/ August 02, 2013

Union Carbide factory site remains a threat for Bhopal: CSE

Asian Age/ Delhi/ August 02, 2013

Carbide plant still poses threat
Sify News/ August 02, 2013
UCIL contamination remains a threat for Bhopal
Two Circles/ 03/08/2013
Contamination of Union Carbide factory site remains a threat for Bhopal: CSE

Media Briefing Presentations
Summary of Studies Conducted so Far
Deliberations in the Expert Roundtable
Action Plan
Environmental Remediation in and around UCIL, Bhopal

Analysis of Soil and Groundwater Samples in Bhopal, IITR, 2013
NEERI-NGRI FinalReport: Assessment and Remediation of Hazardous Waste
Contaminated Areas in and around M/s Union
Carbide India Ltd., Bhopal,
June, 2010
IICT: Technical and tender document for detoxification, decommissioning and dismantling of Union Carbide plant, February, 2010
CPCB findings on contamination at Bhopal site Jan 2010
Report on visit to UCIL at Bhopal for steps needed to remove toxic waste, NK Verma and others from central and state pollution control board and BGTRRD, 2003
Technical guidelines for cleanup at the Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) site in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India, Greenpeace International, 2002
Surviving Bhopal 2002: Toxic Present - Toxic Future, Shrishti and Fact Finding Mission on Bhopal, 2002
Chemical Stockpiles at Union Carbide India Limited in Bhopal: an investigation, Greenpeace International, 2002
Groundwater Contamination near the Union Carbide Plant at Bhopal, Peoples Science Institute, 2001- 02
The Bhopal Legacy, Greenpeace International, 1999
Assessment of Contaminated Areas Due to Past Waste Disposal Practices at EIIL, Bhopal NEERI, 1997
State Research Laboratory report, Public Health Engineering Department, Bhopal, 1996
Process Package for Disposal of SEP Contents at UCIL, Bhopal, NEERI Report 1992 (Recommendations)
Assessment of Pollution Damage Due to Solar Evaporation Ponds at UCIL, Bhopal NEERI 1990
Union Carbide in Bhopal, India: The Lingering Legacy, Bhopal Group for Information and Action, 1990
Bhopal site rehabilitation and assets recovery project, Union Carbide, 1989
DTE Stories and Updates
April 10, 2013
Bhopal protesters knock on Dow Chemical's door in Mumbai
December 4, 2012
Bhopal waste to be disposed of in the sea?
December 3, 2012
Promises broken, justice delayed
Oct 31, 2012
Ground reality
Sep 26, 2012
Groundwater contamination around Union Carbide factory is now officially confirmed
Sep 19, 2012
Plan to incinerate Bhopal waste at Pithampur
Sep 17, 2012
GIZ terminates offer to dispose of Bhopal wa
Sep 5, 2012
Proposal to airlift Bhopal waste to Germany in jeopardy
Aug 22, 2012
Meeting on final agreement for Bhopal waste disposal ends without decision
Aug 10, 2012
Supreme Court presses for better health facilities for Bhopal gas victims
May 14, 2012
MP govt has always tried to fudge data"- Rachna Dhingra
May 14, 2012
Rachna Dhingra on the May 3 SC order
Sept 22, 2011
Lab to be chosen for Bhopal waste
July 28, 2011
Stay on Movement of Bhopal Waste
July 21, 2011
Bhopal waste disposal hits a roadblock
May 11, 2011
Bhopal's Curative Petition Dismissed
April 13, 2011
SC Demands Explanation from CBI
March 23, 2011
Anderson's Extradition & Approval for a Memorial
The Bhopal Disaster
Supreme Court's Order on Toxic Waste, May 2013
Supreme Court's Order on Toxic Waste, March 2013
Curative petition filed by 5 bhopal organisations for compensation, April 2011
Supreme Court order on Bhopal waste disposal, January 28, 2010
Supreme Court review judgement on Bhopal gas case, May 4, 2007
Supreme Court review judgement on Bhopal gas case, October 3, 1991
Supreme Court decision on Bhopal gas settlement, February 14, 1989
US lower court order on Bhopal gas case, May, 1986
Young India’s Bhopal challenge
The Bhopal legacy: reworking corporate liability
Kick ass for Bhopal
Not learning from Bhopal
Narmada, Bhopal are issues of democracy, fair deals
Will Bhopal victims get their due

Key legal cases
Waste disposal at UCIL

CSE letter to Jairam Ramesh Minister of Environment and Forests on Bhopal for GoM - June 17, 2010
CSE letter to Bijoy Chatterjee, Secretary, Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals - February 15, 2010
CSE letter to Ratan Tata - December 11, 2009
CSE letter to Montek Singh Ahluwalia - December 11, 2009
CSE letter to Bijoy Chatterjee, Secretary,
Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals
- November 30, 2009
CSE's comments on NEERI-NGRI Final Report 2010
Comments on NEERI-NGRI-IICT study of 2010
Technical Review of NEERI & NGRI Reports, 2010
NEERI's presentation to Group of Ministers (GoM), June, 2010
Minutes of the meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM) June 2010
CSE note: CPCB report on heavy metals and pesticides in soil sediment at UCIL, Bhopal
BGIA submission to MP High Court on remediation
Short duration discussion on Bhopal Gas Tragedy in Rajya Sabha
First meeting of task force on Bhopal site clean up
Second meeting of task force on Bhopal site clean up
Fifth meeting of task force on Bhopal site clean up
Ninth meeting of task force on Bhopal site clean up
Eighteenth meeting of task force on Bhopal site clean up
Nineteenth meeting of task force on Bhopal site clean up
Application for intervention, 2009
Ex parte opinion of Dow counsel A M Singhvi
Dow Chairman's letter on legacy issues of company
Ratan Tata's letter to government on Bhopal remediation fund
Report by Defence Research and Development Establishment on Bhopal waste
Second report of DRDE on contamination at Bhopal site
Third report of DRDE on contamination at Bhopal site
Excerpts from Dow's 2008 annual report on UCC asbestos liability