Visakhapatnam gas leak: Centre to issue safety protocol for reopening of units

New Delhi: The Union environment ministry is set to bring out a safety protocol for reopening of units and industries after being closed for over a month during the national lockdown in the wake of the gas leak tragedy in Visakhapatnam on Thursday.

At a high-level meetings held in the Prime Minister’s Office, it was agreed that a clear protocol and check list must be drawn up to ensure there is no mishap of the kind seen in Visakhapatnam where at least 11 people died and more than 800 hospitalised following a massive styrene gas leak at a LG Polymer plant that opened after 45 days, people aware of the development told ET.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has been instructed to immediately ask all entities to conduct a thorough safety check of all their installations and units before resuming functions, they said.


Most of the country’s industry has been shut down since March end due to the Covid-19 outbreak and the national lockdown to contain its spread, and is just beginning to reopen.

Central and state teams are currently keeping a close watch on contamination data being collected from the Visakhapatnam site besides doing a thorough analysis on what led to the leakage, officials said.

Meanwhile, there are question marks over whether LG Polymer was operating with all due environmental clearances and whether it needed the central government’s go ahead or not.

Questions have also been raised about how the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board had permitted the unit to operate with expanded capacity when two of the key state environmental bodies had recommended that the proposal be prior vetted by the Union environment ministry — an issue formally raised by former finance secretary EAS Sarma with chief minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy.

Top state government officials, however, told ET on condition of anonymity that the clearance from the state pollution board was sufficient for the polymer firm to operate.

While the Union environment ministry is still to examine this issue closely, its prima facie assessment is that since this is an old unit it would not have required the new environmental clearance mandate.

“The state government has conveyed to us that APPCB had given it consent to operate as well,” a senior official from the environment ministry told ET. “So our first assessment is that it was not running in violation of environmental norms. However, we will be examining the issue more closely as well now.”

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