The National Green Tribunal (NGT) took cognisance on its own about the Visakhapatnam gas leak incident killing at least 11 people and leaving hundreds hospitalised.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel will take up the matter today titled “Gas Leak at LG Polymers Chemical Plant in RR Venkatapuram Village, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh”.
Earlier, a plea was filed seeking the constitution of a high-level committee to investigate the gas leak incident, pointing out that many collapsed to the ground as they tried to escape the toxic vapours.
Further, according to documents accessed by The Indian Express, the Visakhapatnam unit of LG Polymers India did not have an environmental clearance for its petrochemical plant for a substantial period of its operations between 1997 and 2019.
In an affidavit submitted to the State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), the company admitted that as of May 10, 2019, the unit did not have a “valid environmental clearance substantiating the produced quantity, issued by the competent authority for continuing operations”.
The NGO, Centre for Wildlife and Environmental Litigation Foundation, has sought the constitution of a high-level committee, comprising judges and officers, not below the rank of Joint Secretary, to probe the incident.
“This unfortunate accident points to two systemic issues. First, as the documents reveal that the project had admittedly been operating without environmental clearance and its appraisal was pending under the “violation” category. Yet there were no restrictions to carry out operations.” said Kanchi Kohli, researcher at Centre for Policy Research.
She added, “Second, the COVID lockdowns have allowed for several industries, construction projects mines or power plants to operate but the regulatory institutions like the pollution control boards are only working from their offices. There is no scope for onsite scrutiny and inspection. Both these aspects are true for several projects, which have been privileged with exceptions, amnesty and are functioning without regulatory oversight.”
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday issued notices to LG Polymers, Union Environment Ministry, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and others regarding the Vizag gas leak incident.
The NGT has directed LG Polymers, India, at whose plant the gas leakage occurred, to forthwith deposit an initial amount of Rs 50 crore taking note of damages caused due to the incident.
Further hearing in the matter is scheduled for May 18.