NGT takes note of explosion at pharmaceutical plant in Vizag and forms committee to probe issue

The National Green Tribunal Friday took cognisance of a major fire which broke out following an explosion at a pharmaceutical unit near Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and formed a committee to probe the matter.

Expressing concern over the incident, the tribunal said it has come across several incidents in recent past (within last three months) resulting in deaths and injuries to human beings and damage to the environment on account of failure of compliance of the statutory provisions.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel said deficiency in compliance of Chemical Accidents (Emergency Planning, Preparedness and Response) Rules, 1996 (The 1996 Rules) and failure of the State Chief Inspector of Factories (CIFs) under the Factories Act, 1948 to oversee the safety issues has also been observed.

There is further failure in due compliance of provisions relating to requirement of approval of site by the Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO), it said.

The committee formed by NGT comprises officials from Central Pollution Control Board, state pollution control board and Proffesor P Jagannadha Rao, Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Andhra University, Vishakhapatnam to ascertain facts, determine responsibility, assess the final compensation for the victims and the environment, to prepare plan restoration of the environment and suggest precautions for future.

Proceedings in NGT were initiated based on media report that massive fire engulfed the chemical plant of Visakha Solvents Ltd, Vizag in July 13.

The incident is said to have occurred in the Coastal Waste Management Project, a unit of Ramky Solvents.

The NGT said that it is prima facie clear that the accident happened due to failure to comply with the safety guidelines and practices by the unit and its operators.

The tribunal said in view of the repeated failures of compliance of safety norms, there is a need for preventive action to avoid any such incidents.

The green panel said the Chief Secretaries of the all the States may hold meetings with concerned officers and stakeholders within two weeks from today to take stock of the situation and issue such directions as may be found necessary.

The preventive action may also include mock-drills as statutory requirement to be performed under the 1989 Rules.

The Committee may visit the site, consider the view point of all the stake holders and give its report within three months by e-mail, the bench said.

CPCB will be the nodal agency for compliance, the tribunal said and directed the District Magistrate to extend necessary cooperation and facilitate functioning of the Committee.

The Chief Secretary, Andhra Pradesh may identify and take action against persons responsible for failure in overseeing the execution of on-site and off-site emergency plans and holding of mock drills as per statutory requirement, the bench said.

The tribunal noted that the heirs of the deceased have been paid a sum of Rs 35 lakhs by the company and Rs. 15 lakhs will be paid by the State.

A sum of Rs 20 lakhs will be paid to the injured. The compensation will be treated as interim subject to determination of final liability. Suitable interim steps may be taken for restoration of the environment, pending preparation of final restoration plan, the bench said.

Apart from the report of the committee, action taken reports may be filed by the Chief Secretary, Andhra Pradesh, State PCB, CPCB, District Magistrate, Vishakhapatnam and the environment ministry before the next date by e-mail.

The matter is listed for next hearing on November 3.

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