The disastrous leak of a toxic chemical that has killed several people. It left hundreds sick near Visakhapatnam. This comes as a shock to a nation struggling to cope with a prolonged lockdown. After that the trail of death and devastation that cyclone Amphan has left in West Bengal and Odisha. At least 72 people were dead in Bengal and normal life is paralyzed in Kolkata.
The battle against the virus may yet be won sooner or later. India must strengthen its response capabilities for a never-ending cycle of storms along its coastline. Visakhapatnam gas leak case also referred to as the Vizag gas leak case was an industrial accident that occurred at the LG South Korean Multinational company polymer plant on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh during the early morning of Thursday nearly 2.30 am there is a term given to this hour called wee hour.
History of LG polymer
The LG polymer plant was established in 1961 as a Hindustan polymer to manufacture polystyrene. Later it was merged with MC Dowell and company in 1978 and was taken over by South Korean based LG chemical in 1997 renamed as LG polymer. It made polystyrene, high polystyrene which is used in food packaging, automobile sector, making a seat, and so on.
Damage caused by the gas leak
According to a statement the gas leaked from 2000 metric tons capacity tank storing styrene gas that becomes volatile. Industry Minister Gautam Reddy he himself confirmed that the plant was operational and was opened after the 40 days of lockdown. The people and animals died due to inhaling toxic styrene gas that leaked from the LG polymer plant and due to early evacuation many were able to save their lives but not all were lucky approximately 12 people lost their lives while they were sleeping and more than 170 people were admitted into the hospitals and 32 animals were killed. Short term effects of inhalation of styrene gas cause irritation, vomiting, respiratory effects while long term effects can cause cancer, Central nervous system, and kidney effects.
Post gas leak situation
After the industrial accident government instantly sent mobilized, specialized, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) teams to ensure the safety of people and to check on plants. After the great loss, Andhra Pradesh’s forensic science lab has revealed that the accident was happened due to years of neglect and human error as the temperature of the tank was not maintained below 20 degrees Celsius.
But unfortunately, this is not something newly happened, earlier on 2-3 December of 1984 from the pesticide plant of Union carbide India limited in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh there was gas leakage of methyl isocyanate, according to sources after the incident around three thousand people died and six lakhs were injured, this is known as Bhopal Gas Disaster also referred as Bhopal Gas Tragedy.
The suit against Union Carbide
The suit was filed against Union Carbide India Limited. And the case becomes a landmark Case of India named Union Carbide Corporation v. Union of India. The judgment came of District Court. It was held that Union Carbide Corporation has to pay a sum of 350 crores as compensation. Later Union carbide corporation appealed the case to the High court of Madhya Pradesh and the judgment came. It was held that the Union carbide corporation has to pay 205 crores as compensation. Again Union carbide corporation appealed to the apex court of India. It was held that now Union carbide corporation has to pay a sum of 750 crores to the victim. Both the Bhopal Gas tragedy and the Vizag gas leak occurred during the night and also when the plants were about to restart after some time gap. We need to learn a lot of things from such tragedies.
Again on 4 December 1985, at Shri Ram Food and Fertilizer limited complex at Delhi, Gas leakage of oleum happened from one of its units. In this incident, 1 person died and few were affected. Later a social activist lawyer MC Mehta filed a PIL against Shri Ram Food and Fertilizer limited. This case becomes a landmark Case of India named as MC Mehta v. Union of India 1987 SCR (1) 819 AIR 1987 965. It was held that the enterprise must absorb the cost of the accident, and the larger and more prosperous it is, the greater is the amount of compensation. And the concept of Absolute liability was introduced.
It needs no special emphasis that the safety of industrial chemicals requires continuous watch with no scope for waivers. As India aims for a wider manufacturing base, it needs to strengthen its approach to public and occupational safety. Transparent oversight is not a hurdle to industrial growth. It advances sustainable development by eliminating terrible mistakes.
Kratika Kushwah | Amity University, Lucknow