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

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Indians have made 119 nations their ‘karma bhumi’: US-based Hindu NGO tells Rupani

Counterview Desk
In a stinging letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the US-based Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), referring to the report citing his justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – that “while Muslims can choose any one of the 150 Islamic countries in the world (for residence), India is the only country for Hindus" – has said, he should remember, Hindus have made several countries, including USA, their home.

J&K continues to be haunted, as parts of India 'degenerate' into quasi-Kashmir situation

By Rajendran Narayanan*, Sandeep Pandey**
“Jab har saans mein bandook dikhe toh baccha kaise bekhauf rahe?” (How can a child be fearless when she sees a gun in every breath?) remarked Anwar, a gardener from Srinagar, when asked about the situation in Kashmir. On November 30, 2019, a walk through an iron gate in a quiet neighbourhood of Srinagar took us inside a public school. It was 11 am when typically every school is abuzz with activity. Not here though.

Tata Mundra's possible closure? Power ministry's 'pressure tactic' on consumer states

By Bharat Patel*
Tata power has announced to the Union Ministry of Power that Tata Power may be forced to stop operating  its imported coal-based Mundra Ultra-Mega Power Project (UMPP) after February, 2020. It is not only unfortunate but also criminal that irreversible damage has been caused to the fragile ecosystem of Mundra coast for a project that will have a running life of only seven years.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Population control? 10% Indian couples want to delay next pregnancy, but fail

Counterview Desk
Shireen Jejeebhoy, director at Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing, previously senior associate at the Population Council, India, argues that the debate on the country's population was fuelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address to the nation, where he drew attention to “concern” about the challenges posed by this ‘exploding’ population growth, needs to centre around the promotion of rights and education, instead of the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam*
In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Kerala governor turned History Congress into political arena, 'insulted' Prof Irfan Habib

Counterview Desk
In a signed statement, office bearers of the Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology (ASHA), Prof Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi (president), Prof Jabir Raza (vice-president), Prof Manvendra Kumar Pundhir (secretary) and Prof Farhat Hasan (joint secretary), have said that Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan had sought to insult veteran historian Prof Irfan Habib, 88, at the 80th session of the Indian History Congress, even as turning it into his “political arena”.