On May 7, 2020, around 3 to 4 a.m., a pungent smell spread across the area, R.R. Venkatapuram. Its a village near Gopalpatnam It is on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. The gas leaked was harmful. It was causing breathing problems. Many people’s eyes were itching. They were unable to see anything. The gas spread over a radius of 1.5 to 3 km. It came to know that the gas was coming from a nearby polymer plant named, LG Polymers. Meanwhile, many people ran away from the area and saved their lives. After the survey, it was that confirmed that 12 people died. Hundreds were in the hospital getting treated.
The reason behind the leakage –
After investigation, it came into light that the vapour was caused due to wrong maintenance of Styrene monomer. Styrene is a liquid hydrocarbon. It can leak at high temperatures and evaporate into the atmosphere. The plant was closed since lockdown, and on May 7, when it opened, the styrene monomer which was stored in the tanks at a safe temperature i.e. 145 degrees boiling point, got its temperature raised which caused it to vaporize. It was believed that the difference in temperature at the bottom and top portion of the tank has caused the vapour formation.
Years of neglection –
LG Polymers or LG Chem expanded it’s operation five times between 2006 to 2018. But, without environmental clearance, which is issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change. According to the law, whenever a plant expands, it must get clearance from the ministry. However, the plant told that the company follows all the laws including state and federal. But, it came into light that the company never asked for a federal clearance until 2017. But also there was no order from the state to stop the functioning of the plant. In 2018, the company applied for environmental clearance to expand its manufacturing of polystyrene. The Environment Ministry send a notice. It read that the chemicals that the company was manufacturing did not have environmental clearance.
An FIR was filed against the LG Polymers by the local police. The plant was responsible under:
- Making the atmosphere noxious to health. (Section 278)
- Negligent conduct with respect to poisonous substances. (Section 284)
- For their negligent conduct with respect to fire and combustible matter. (Section 285)
- Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others. (Section 337)
- Grievous hurt by act endangering life. (Section 338)
- Causing death by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide of IPC (Indian Penal Code). (Section 304)
Study on the tragedy-
Prof. S Bala Prasad is a noted environmental expert and Chairman of the pollution committee. He completed his study in five days. In which he ascertained the concentration levels and the duration of time people inhaled vapours at different times in different villages.
He was conducting his study using dispersion models. Just to know the concentration of pollutants or toxins released from the plant. Prof. S Bala Prasad said that staff should take measures for the prohibition of such tragedies. The staff should inform the district administration about the use of such chemicals. Before starting the work at the plant, the staff should inform the district administration.
Bhopal gas tragedy
Bhopal disaster, an industrial accident took place on the night of 2-3 Dec. 1984 in Bhopal. The incident took place at a pesticide plant named Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL). It occurred due to Methyl isocyanate gas. In this, many people were injured and a death toll of at least 3,787 was dead.
The combination of water with Methyl isocyanate was the cause of this incident. Adding water caused a chemical reaction releasing a lot of carbon dioxide. As a result, there was an increase in temperature in the tank. This caused the tank to break from the unbearable pressure. After that, toxic gases started to release into the environment.
Author: Drishti Singh