Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board's statement on vapour leak draws flak

Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Boards statement on vapour leak draws flak
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LG Polymers engulfed in fumes of styrene on the day the disaster happened at RR Venkatapuram in Visakhapatnam
Highlights

The Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board’s statement on the recent vapour leak at the LG Polymers that it is not the statutory authority for implementation of zoning and safety aspects of the industries invites wrath from various quarters.

Visakhapatnam: The Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board's statement on the recent vapour leak at the LG Polymers that it is not the statutory authority for implementation of zoning and safety aspects of the industries invites wrath from various quarters.

Terming the APPCB's statement as inaccurate and misleading, former Union Energy Secretary E A S Sarma wrote to Special Chief Secretary and chairman of the high-powered committees constituted to probe the LG polymers gas leak incident Neerabh Kumar Prasad and mentioned that those who issued the press note are unaware of the powers and responsibilities vested on APPCB under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.

The retired IAS officer mentions that pollution of air and water are integral components of industrial safety, unless APPCB has some other interpretation. "The accident that took place at LG Polymers in the early hours on May 7 caused toxic substances to permeate the air over an area extending up to five to 10 km from the plant site and there is a possibility of such substances getting deposited in the water reservoirs situated close to the company," Sarma states in the letter.

While under Section 17(1)(h) of the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, Sarma says that the APPCB has the responsibility to advise the State government with respect to the suitability of any premises or location for carrying on any industry which is likely to cause air pollution, under section 17(1)(n) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, the Board has the responsibility to advise the State government with respect to the location of any industry carrying on of which is likely to pollute a stream or well. Would not the provisions of the Acts raise questions on APPCB's role in preventing the accident that caused such a magnitude of pollution?" he asks.

The former Union Secretary explains that another misleading statement made by the board includes 'APPCB issues consent for establishment (CFE) and consent for operation (CFO) to the industry under Water Act and Air Act in pollution point of view only'. This, according to Sarma, gives the impression that APPCB acts merely as a rubber stamp in giving CFE and CFO approvals. The casual manner in which the board issued CFE/CFO to the company raises questions about its professional integrity and APPCB should not consider itself equivalent to a 'mindless machine' issuing CFE/CFO clearances, Sarma points out. Further, he adds that the widespread occurrence of industrial pollution that people experience across AP is a standing testimony to the laxity in regulation on APPCB's part.

Sharing his views on the press note issued by the APPCB, AP and TS coordination committee member of Human Rights Forum V S Krishna says, "CFE and CFO cannot be given to a unit without an Environmental Clearance (EC). The consents handed out by the PCB to LG Polymers are patently illegal he says. It is an imprudent attempt by the PCB to absolve itself of any responsibility for the styrene disaster that occurred at RR Venkatapuram on May 7."

The Board, Krishna adds, is entrusted with the task of protecting and safeguarding the environment. "Regulatory and monitoring bodies like the APPCB as well as environmental authorities knew all along about lack of compliance to environmental norms by the LG Polymers. But instead of invoking the law and taking action, they did absolutely nothing. Therefore, they are as criminally liable as the company," Krishna opined.

Expressing their shock over the board's apathy towards the tragic incident at the plant, representatives of the Scientists for People, Hyderabad, a social organisation, say that its (board) statement is more in the tone of the excuses reeled out by a student for an incomplete homework. "Instead of protecting the environment and people, APPCB is acting in an irresponsible manner," laments K Babu Rao, convener of the organisation.

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