Skip to main content

Benzene pollution level 5000% higher, is life threatening in Mumbai's industry-intensive Mahul rehab site


By Bilal Khan et al*
The Maharashtra government recently assured the Bombay High Court that Mahul is safe and habitable, ignoring the health issues frequently faced by people living in the region. This assurance is, in fact, fraudulent and even contradicts the state government’s own previous statements and studies.
The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board’s (MPCB’s) report on high level of pollution in the area and the National Green Tribunal’s observations are proof that the place is uninhabitable.

The housing minister, too, has stated categorically that the place is uninhabitable. Further, police personnel and Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) staff have refused accommodation in Mahul because of the grave health hazards. In spite, of this the state government has been relocating people from various localities to Mahul.
More than hundred people have already died in Mahul over the last three years because of pollution. Most of them became ill after being forcibly relocated here and contracted illness from extreme pollution, becoming incurably sick, and some eventually died. More and more people are complaining that they have contracted severe illnesses after moving to Mahul due to unacceptably high levels of pollutions.
Mahul is among one of the most industrially-dense locations in Maharashtra. Three of the nation’s oldest and largest refineries, one of the largest fertilizer producing complexes of Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers Ltd (RCF) and Tatas’ thermal power turbine units, are all located here.
Additionally, Mahul has amongst the largest storing facilities for processed chemicals, many of which are listed as carcinogenic. The housing complex the the state government has set up is in violation of the regulations of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) guidelines and court orders.
The safe zone distance from the hazardous facility – recommended minimum is 25 kilometers away – has not been adhered to. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) housing complex is literally at the boundary of the Bharat Petroleum Mumbai Refinery (BPCL) refinery, at a mere 35 metres distance – a far cry from the mandated distance as prescribed by even government agencies.
Given the concentration of the facilities and the scale of operations, any evacuation plan will be inadequate in case of an emergency leading to leakage of gases or fire. There is a constant threat to health and life of Mahul residents. In 2003, Mahul was identified as a toxic hotspot similar to what Bhopal was after the Union Carbide disaster.
A study conducted by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) found that the level of Volatile Organic Compound (VOC)-Benzene was 158 ug/cum during daytime and 248 ug/cum as on January 1, 2018 in Mahul, as against the permissible limit of 5ug/cum by NAAQS, 2009. This means that the level of Benzene is 3,160% to 5,160% higher than the permissible limit. Exposure to this level of Benzene is life threatening. The ground around the complex is seeping with VOCs, and this gets into the water pipelines leading to serious diseases.
The Bombay High Court’s order to make Tansa pipeline encroachment free led to those residents being evicted and settled here. The court ordered the government to properly rehabilitate the eligible Tansa residents. However, the government, instead of rehabilitating them in true sense, dumped them in Mahul, where even basic amenities are absent.
Additionally there is extreme pollution, causing hazard to life and health there too. The absence of basic amenities like schooling, hospitals, employment opportunities have further made life in Mahul hell for residents. Residents say that absence of amenities notwithstanding, it is the extreme health hazard that makes them want to move out of Mahul.
The government move to spend Rs 29 crore on bettering the amenities there will be a complete waste, as health hazard due extreme pollution continues to plague Mahul. Pollution is the major reason for the residents wanting to vacate Mahul.
---
*With Rekha Ghadge, Anita Dhole, BR Verma and Nandu Shinde of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan (GBGBA)

Comments

TRENDING

132 Gujarat citizens, including IIM-A faculty, others declare solidarity with Kashmiris

Counterview Desk
A week after it was floated, 132 activists, academics, students, artists and other concerned citizens of Gujarat, backed by 118 living in different parts of India and the world, have signed a "solidarity letter" supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), who, it claims, have been silenced and held captive in their own land. The signatories include faculty members and scholars of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

Amit Shah 'wrong': Lack of transparency characterized bank frauds, NPAs, jobs data

Counterview Desk
India's senior RTI activists Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bhardwaj, Venktesh Nayak, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog and Pradip Pradhan, who are attached with the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), have said that Union home minister Amit Shah's claim that the Government of India is committed to transparency stands in sharp contrast to its actual actions.

Bharat Ratna nominee ‘joined hands’ with British masters to 'crush' Quit India

By Shamsul Islam*
The Quit India Movement (QIM), also known as ‘August Kranti' (August Revolution), was a nation-wide Civil Disobedience Movement for which a call was given on August 7, 1942 by the Bombay session of the All-India Congress Committee. It was to begin on August 9 as per Gandhi's call to 'Do or Die' in his Quit India speech delivered in Bombay at the Gowalia Tank Maidan on August 8. Since then August 9 is celebrated as August Kranti Divas.

Untold story of Jammu: Business 'down', students fear lynching, teachers can't speak

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released report, seeking to debunk the view that people in Jammu, the second biggest city of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) after Srinagar, people had gone “out celebrating” abrogation of Article 370 which took away the state’s special status, has reported what it calls “abominably high levels of fear” across all sections in the town.

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…