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Vizag gas tragedy a grim reminder of lurking disaster

Vizag gas tragedy a grim reminder of lurking disaster
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Visakhapatnam gas leakage tragedy is just yet another in the long list of such accidents that have happened till now and will happen in the future.

Visakhapatnam gas leakage tragedy is just yet another in the long list of such accidents that have happened till now and will happen in the future. There seems to be little that the governments are doing to enforce safety norms and prevent these things from happening. Other countries wake up to these kinds of disasters and put in place mechanisms that enforce the guidelines. Sadly, in our country, it does not seem to happen. The visuals that streamed in on Thursday morning from Vishakhapatnam were quite disturbing.

Gas leaks in industrial facilities are not something to be taken lightly, as exposure to these gases can cause severe health issues and even death. It is critical to take employee safety and thereby the safety of people living nearby into heavy consideration to avoid any serious repercussions resulting from negligence in gas leak safety procedures. Safety measures have to begin keeping in mind the employees first. To ensure safety at the industrial facility that utilises gas, plants have to meet certain regulations and requirements, and these must be upheld regularly.

Apart from these regular inspections, one must maintain safety processes internally to help prevent and/or reduce the frequency of natural gas leaks. If there are possibilities of a leakage, then a fixed gas leakage detection system should be in place at strategic points throughout the facility. Portable gas leak detectors should also be used so that employees can detect leaks remotely. The industry should keep its employees well-versed in what they should do in the event of a leak. This seems to have been precisely lacking in the present case. People complained that even the siren was not blared to alert people the moment the gas leak began to happen.

While natural disasters are largely unpredictable, environmental disasters are caused directly or indirectly by human behaviour. Chemical disasters, like the one in Bhopal in the past or now in Vishakhapatnam, are preventable if risks are identified and addressed early on. Preventing these tragedies is not a one man's act. It will take the combined effort of competent authorities, private sector and society to prevent tragic environmental events from happening. Some measures include: Developing policies to ensure that industries operate in accordance with technical and safety standards and allocating resources for risk assessment and monitoring. Most of all, it is important to adhere to environmental norms.

Taking environmental safety and public health risks seriously and promoting do-no-harm industrial development can make a big difference. There is a clear need to promote clean development that innovatively addresses potential negative impacts on the environment. To prevent future environmental disasters, all sectors could also do more to integrate environmental emergency preparedness and response activities into strategies and sustainable development programmes. These measures could make a big difference in people's health and wellbeing and avoid future tragedies. Andhra Pradesh has an advantage being a new State off the block. It can usher in environmental changes easily with political will and determination. The Chief Minister should overhaul the industrial atmosphere of the State in the larger interest of the society.

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