The Supreme Court has set a three-month deadline for the MadhyaPradesh government to ensure supply of clean drinking water tovictims of the Bhopal gas leak tragedy living in settlements aroundthe Union Carbide Factory. They have been forced to drinkcontaminated water for over 30 years. The court this past week also directed the setting up of afive-member Monitoring Committee with the executive chairman of theM.P. State Legal Services Authority as its chairman to oversee theBhopal Municipality carrying out the task of providing fresh waterto the 18 affected areas near the plant. "The entire exercise should be completed within three monthsfrom the communication of this order to the chairman and othermembers of the committee and both the State government and theBhopal Municipal Corporation shall ensure that the work does notsuffer or is not obstructed on account of inadequate orinsufficient funds," said a two-judge Bench of JusticesAltamas Kabir and J. |
Chelameswar. The groundwater contamination, however, does not have anything todo with the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984, but was generated duringthe normal course of the working of the Union Carbide Factory, fromwhere toxic wastes started seeping into groundwater in theadjoining areas. The court had in 2005 directed the M.P. government that cleandrinking water be expeditiously supplied to the settlements. In thepresent case, it was hearing an application filed by the BhopalGroup for Information and Action for non-execution of the order inits full spirit as the work had been progressing very slowly.
An affidavit filed by the M.P. government stated it had alreadytaken steps to supply drinking water through over-ground pipelinesand provide each household with a tap connection but the processwould take "some" time to complete. ‘Double whammy of diseases' The court, however, relied on the submissions of the organisation'slawyer Karuna Nundy, who submitted that the chemicals in thegroundwater were known to cause cancer, birth defects and otherchronic diseases in people for about 27 years now. She furthercontended that the people had been subjected to a "doublewhammy of diseases," first because of the gas leak and thenbecause of groundwater contamination.
The court has directed the newly appointed Monitoring Committee tosubmit a report of the work undertaken on August 13.
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