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

#MeToo moment in Hyderabad Urdu varsity? Two girl students seek action against authorities

Counterview Desk
Has the #MeToo movement reached Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MAANU)? It would seem so if a recent letter by newly-appointed chancellor Firoz Bakht Ahmed to MAANU vice-chancellor Dr Aslam Parvaiz is any indication. Seeking reinstatement of two girl victims of “sexual harassment and humiliation”, the letter specifically names head of the department of the Media Centre for Journalism, suspecting, the problem could be much deeper.
Text of the letter: It is a matter of utmost perturbation for me to receive the two representations from the girls studying in the MCJ (Media Center for Journalism) regarding their sexual and subsequently, mental and social harassment at the hands of Prof Ehtesham Ahmad Khan, the HOD, MCJ.
We do not know, how many girls have been exploited by him and preferred to be silent for saving their family’s honour; however, there are two brave girls who stood to the depraved advances and misuse by Prof Ehtesham and came up with written complai…

"Ineligible" funding of Sardar Statue in Gujarat: CAG tells Central PSUs, it's not a heritage CSR activity

By Our Representative
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, in its recent report on Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE), has qualified public sector undertakings’ (PSUs') funding the 182-metre world’s highest Sardar Statue, currently being constructed in the Narmada river downstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam as an “ineligible” corporate social responsibility (CSR) activity.

29th "NRC-related" suicide in Assam, as Nirod Baran Das takes his life by hanging on a fan

By Our Representative
Reporting 29th case of National Register of Citizens (NRC)-driven suicide in Assam, one of India’s human rights campaign sites has said that, on October 20, tragedy struck Kharupetia town in Darrang district of Assam, when a retired school teacher and advocate Nirod Baran Das “took his life by hanging himself to a fan in his home.” The report adds, “The NRC process has so far claimed over two dozen such lives in the past four months alone.”

"Highly irregular" for PSUs to fund Sardar Statue under Corporate Social Responsibility

Counterview Desk
In a letter to I Srinivas, secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, former secretary (economic affairs), Ministry of Finance, EAS Sarma, has raised questions on the funding of the Sardar Patel statue in South Gujarat by Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSUs) relying on the Comptroller and Auditor General report (No 18/2018).

Murder of Tamil Nadu teenage Dalit girl: "Stoic silence" despite #MeToo movement

Counterview Desk
Brinelle D'souza, who is with the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has prepared a strong statement to protest the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rajalakshmi. "Other than a few media reports, this gruesome killing has not caught national attention despite a very vibrant #MeToo campaign currently underway", regrets D'souza.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Preventing childhood deaths: India performs worse than Bangladesh, "equals" Pakistan

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released study, “The Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report 2018”, prepared by the International Vaccine Access Centre (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has identified India among 15 other countries which are still far off the mark in achieving the targets of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD).

Bank account frozen, raid on Amnesty office: Govt of India "treating" human rights NGOs like criminal enterprises

By Abhirr VP*
Amnesty India’s bank accounts have been frozen by the Enforcement Directorate, effectively stopping its work. Amnesty India is thus the latest target of the government’s assault on civil society in the country. The accounts of Greenpeace India were frozen earlier this month.

60 ex-civil servants seek release of CAG reports on Rafale, demonetisation before 2019 polls

Counterview Desk
As many as 60 retired civil servants have asked President Ram Nath Kovind to expedite the release of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reports on demonetisation and the Rafale deal. The letter, signed mainly by former Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service and Indian Police Service officers, regrets that the status of the audit is "unclear”. According to them, “An impression is gaining ground that CAG is deliberately delaying its audit reports on demonetisation and Rafale deal till after the May 2019 elections so as not to embarrass the present government”.

Govt of India "tarnishing" NGO reputation, dossier leaked selectively: Amnesty

Counterview Desk
Amnesty International India has said that a deliberate attempt is being made to tarnish its reputation by leaking a dossier, supposedly made by investigating agencies, to media without giving it access to any such information. The high profile NGO’s claim follows a Times Now report about proceedings launched by investigative agencies, including Enforcement Directorate (ED) against the rights body for “violations” of rules pertaining to overseas donations.