Visakhapatnam gas tragedy: NGT take cognizance, directs LG Polymers to deposit Rs 50 crores

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Vizag plant gas leak | 7 people die after gas leak at LG Polymers ...On May 7, 2020 nation witnessed another tragedy which reverberated the chilling scenes of 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy . Many developments we have seen after incident, PM is closely monitoring the whole incident and many other developments. The suo moto cognizance has taken by various bodies, from NHRC to Andhra Pradesh High court, but the much awaited cognizance was expected is from NGT (National Green Tribunal) as the gas leakage directly affects the environment. Even on the day of gas leakage, we get to see that many cattle’s and other animals died due to the leakage of Styrene.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court in the matter has appointed Senior Counsel YV Ravi Prasad as Amicus Curiae in the case and directed the District Legal Services Authority to provide proper assistance through para legal volunteers.

Finally, NGT has taken  cognizance of   the tragedy caused by chemical gas leak at Visakhapatnam, it is reported that 11 people have died and hundreds are admitted in the hospital. The matter was heard by the Bench of Chief Justice Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari and Justice Lalitha Kanneganthi and the Court is to hear the matter next on May 20.

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A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel will take up today the matter titled “In re: Gas Leak at LG Polymers Chemical Plant in RR Venkatapuram Village Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.”  Apart from it, a petition has also been filed seeking constitution of High level committee to investigate the tragedy. Centre for Wildlife and environmental Litigation Foundation, an NGO has sought constitution of a high level committee, comprising of judges and officers, to probe the incident.

The gas leaked from the LG polymers facility is Styrene, it is a flammable, colourless liquid, which is volatile and toxic in nature. It is used in the manufacturing of polystyrene plastics, fiberglass and rubber. It is also present in cigarette in small quantity, naturally it is present in coffee beans also. On chronic exposure of gas to human body it could drastically affect the central nervous system and lead to peripheral neuropathy. If exposed continuously for long term it could also lead to cancer and depression in some cases. The gas that leaked in this incident is Styrene which is a hazardous chemical as defined under Rule 2(e) read with Entry 583 of Schedule I to the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989.

A bench comprising of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Justice Sheo Kumar Singh, Judicial Member and Dr. Nagin Nanda has directed LG Polymers to deposit Rs.50 crores and  has constituted a five member committee to inspect the site and submit a report to NGT within 10 days i.e. May 18. The order of tribunal reads as :”Having regard to the prima facie material regarding the extent of damage to life, public health and environment, we direct LG Polymers India Pvt., Limited to forthwith deposit an initial amount of Rs. 50 Crore, with the District Magistrate, Vishakhapatnam, which will abide by further orders of this tribunal. The amount is being fixed having regard to the financial worth of the company and the extent of the damage caused.”” The ratio of order given by tribunal is in based on Principal of “Strict Liability” under environmental laws. The tribunal has ordered that the statutory authorities responsible for authorizing and regulating such activities may also be accountable for their lapses, if any, in dealing with the matter.

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The committee comprises of Justice B. Seshasayana Reddy (Former Judge, A.P. High court),  , Prof. Ch V Rama Chandra Murthy ( Former Vice Chancellor, Andhra University, Vizag;), Professor Pulipati King (Head of Chemical Engineering, Andhra University, Vizag), Member secretary, CPCB, Director, CSIR-India Institute of Chemical Technology, and Head, NEERI, it has been instructed “visit and inspect the site at the earliest and give its report before the next date.”  The  NGT has directed that the Committee’s  report include the following aspects:                                                                                                                                                                                                             1] the sequence of events.                                                                                                                                                                                   2] Causes of failure and responsible persons.                                                                                                                                           3] The extent of human and environment  damage caused.                                                                                                             4] Steps for compensating the victims, remedial measures.                                                                                                         5] Remedial measures to prevent recurrence.

The committee will be at liberty to take assistance of such experts, individuals and institutions or any other help which committee think is necessary.  The NGT noted: “Leakage of hazardous gas at such a scale adversely affecting public health and environment, clearly attracts the principle of ‘Strict Liability’ against the enterprise engaged in hazardous or inherently dangerous industry. Such an entity is liable to restore the damage caused under the Environment Law, apart from other statutory liability. “  Also, the tribunal observed that the gas leak was seemingly a result of failure to comply with the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989 that require on-site and off-site Emergency Plans to ensure prevention of damage.

 

 

READ ORDER HERE: NGT_Order_on_Vizag_Gas_Leak___08_05_2020

References:

1] Live law https://www.livelaw.in/environment/breaking-vigaz-gas-leak-ngt-directs-lg-polymers-to-deposit-rs-50-crores-constitutes-5-member-committee-for-proberead-order-156436?infinitescroll=1

2] Bar & Bench https://www.barandbench.com/news/litigation/vizag-gas-leak-andhra-pradesh-high-court-takes-suo-moto-cognizance-of-the-incident-directs-state-to-take-all-necessary-mitigating-steps

3] Latest Laws https://www.latestlaws.com/latest-news/vizag-gas-leak-ngt-takes-suo-moto-cognizance-of-incident-lists-case-for-friday/

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