Vizag gas leak: Activists demand action against LG Polymers

The Times of India | May 07, 2020

VIJAYAWADA: Civic rights activists in Visakhapatnam, AP, on Thursday demanded urgent action against the management of LG Polymers, a gas leak at whose. unit killed at least 8 people this morning whose unit killed at least 8 people this morning.

Styrene, a toxic chemical, is reported to have leaked from their storage tanks at the LG unit in RR Venkatapuram area early this morning. The gas spread silently through the night, affecting people asleep in their homes and their domestic animals tethered or coralled close-by. The factory was restarted recently after more than a month of lockdown ordered by the government to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

VS Krishna of Human Rights Forum demanded immediate action for criminal negligence by police against the local factories inspector and local officials of the AP Pollution Control Board. "It is the responsibility of the factories inspector and APPCB to ensure that all the machinery and other facilities were working as they should before giving LG Polymers India approval to restart its operations," Krishna said Thursday.

How did APPCB grant Consent for Establishment (CFE) and Consent for Operation (CFO) around the beginning of 2019 for the unit’s expansion? APPCB did not apparently take clearance either from the State govt or from the Union Ministry of Environmen. In the first instance, this unit being a highly polluting one and its being close to residential areas, APPCB should not have allowed it to expand its operations. How did APPCB readily permit such an expansion?" EAS Sarma, who retired from the IAS as Union expenditure secretary, said in a letter to AP Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddyon Thursday.

When the first phase of the recent lockdown ended, a No Objection Certificate (NoC) was apparently granted to LG Polymers, ostensibly on the ground that it was an essential industry. By no stretch of imagination, a plastics manufacturing unit like this can be called essential. Someone senior in the govt should be held responsible for this lapse," Sarma said

Kindly direct your officers to prosecute the promoters and the senior managers of LG Polymers urgently as a deterrent measure. Please fix responsibility on APPCB and the officers of the industrial safety wing for allowing such an industrial unit to expand operations and resume manufacturing, Sarma letter said.

How did a foreign company operating in India conduct its operations so casually and carelessly? It appears that foreign companies like this one are moving into India as the Union Ministry of Environment, in the name of "easing business, is progressively relaxing thep shop in the environment clearance procedures and encouraging polluting industries to set ucountry, knowing well that even if they violate the law of the land, they will get protection from the official organs of the state, Sarma said in the letter.

Ravi Rebbapragada of Samata, a non-governmental organisation that takes up critical issues concerning the livelihood of Adivasis, said the AP government should inquire into how the factories inspector and the APPCB had allowed LG Polymers to resume its manufacturing operations. It appears that the regulators due diligence was lacking. The government should probe this negligence and prosecute the officials found to be responsible for this negligence, Rebbapragada said Thursday.