Assess safety norms’ compliance in chemical factories, NGT tells CSs

New Delhi, July 24 (IANS) In view of repeated failure in compliance with safety norms in chemical plants across the country, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked all state Chief Secretaries to hold meetings within two weeks to take stock of the situation and issue directions accordingly.

The green tribunal passed the directions while hearing suo motu the issue of an explosion at a solvent recovery reactor in Visakha Solvents Limited on Visakhapatnam outskirts on July 13, which led to the death of 45-year-old junior operator K. Srinivasa Rao.

It is the third mishap in the city in the last two months after a styrene gas leak in LG Polymers India Private Limited and another mishap in Sainor Life Sciences Private Limited.

Observing that there is a need for “preventive action” to avoid such incidents, the tribunal, in its order on July 23, said: “The Chief Secretaries of all the states may hold meetings with officers and stakeholders concerned within two weeks from today to take stock of the situation and issue such directions as may be found necessary.”

A bench of NGT Chairman Adarsh Kumar Goel said that the preventive action may also include mock drills as a statutory requirement to be performed under the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989.

The heirs of the deceased person have been paid Rs 35 lakh by the company whereas Rs 15 lakh will be paid by the state. A sum of Rs 20 lakh will be paid to T. Malleswararao, who suffered injuries during the fire accident.

The tribunal also directed for the constitution of a joint committee comprising Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board, and Andhra University Prof P Jagannadha Rao.

The committee will ascertain facts, determine responsibility, and assess the final compensation for the victims, prepare plan for restoration of environment and suggest precautions for future.

“The committee may visit the site, consider the viewpoint of all the stakeholders and give its report within three months,” the bench, also comprising Justice S. P. Wangdi and expert member Dr. Nagin Nanda said.

The Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary has further been directed to identify and take action against persons responsible for the failure in overseeing the execution of on-site and off-site emergency plans and holding of mock drills as per the statutory requirement.

“Apart from the report of the committee, action-taken reports may be filed by the Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary, Andhra Pradesh State PCB, CPCB, District Magistrate of Visakhapatnam and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change before the next date,” the bench said. The matter will be taken up on November 3.

Earlier, a five-member committee was constituted by the District Collector, Visakhapatnam, to inquire into the cause(s) of the incident. Andhra Pradesh and CPCB had also filed their reports in the matter.

“It seems, from the available information, that the accident happened mainly due to the failure to comply with safety guidelines and practices by the unit and its operators,” the CBCP said in its report.



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