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Andhra gas leak: Why was eco-clearance given to LG Polymers, asks ex-bureaucrat

Counterview Desk
Dr EAS Sarma, former energy secretary, Government of India, in a letter to Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has wondered, how the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board could be granted consent of establishment for the expansion of a unit owned by a South Korean company in early 2019 even though it is known to be a polluting unit.
Commenting on the LG Polymers gas leak incident on the outskirts of Vizag, leading to the death of several persons, Sarma said, “This unit being a highly polluting one and its being close to residential areas, APPCB should not have allowed it to expand its operations.”

Text:

From TV visuals, I understand that there was a serious leakage of toxic gases at the manufacturing site of LG Polymers in Venkatapuram village near Pendurthi on the outskirts of Vizag,
I gather that hundreds of people up to 3 km around the site, especially women and children, have got exposed to the gases and have fallen seriously ill. They are being evacuated to different hospitals in the city.
It is unfortunate that such a ghastly accident should take place at a time when the district administration is busy engaged in COVID operations.
There are some important aspects that I wish to bring to your notice about this accident, as follows.
LG Polymers is a South Korean company, constantly pampered by the successive governments. It stands on government ceiling surplus land valuing hundreds of crores of rupees and the company had dragged the government into litigation, when the government tried to take back the land.
Despite this, how did the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) grant Consent for Establishment (CFE) and Consent for Operation (CFO) around the beginning of 2019 for the unit's expansion? APPCB did not apparently take clearance either from the State government or from the Union Ministry of Environment.
In the first instance, this unit being a highly polluting one and its being close to residential areas, APPCB should not have allowed it to expand its operations. How did APPCB readily permit such an expansion?
This is not the first industrial accident to take place in the outskirts of Visakhapatnam. Around 30 to 40 accidents took place in the past resulting in several workers and civilians losing their lives, with no promoter prosecuted and no officer of the State government punished. It implies collusion between the officers and the promoters of the polluting industries. I would not be surprised if the promoters have had support from the political leaders of all hues.
When the first phase of the lockdown ended, NOC was granted to LG Polymers, on the ground that it was an essential industry
When the first phase of the recent lockdown ended, a No Objection Certificate (NOC) was apparently granted to LG Polymers, ostensibly on the ground that it was an "essential" industry. By no stretch of imagination, a plastics manufacturing unit like this can be called "essential". Someone senior in the government should be held responsible for this lapse.
Pollution in principle reduces the body's immunity to diseases like Corona. It is ironic that both the Centre and the State should jointly encourage activities such as liquor sales and industrial pollution that weaken human immunity at a time when the country is facing an unprecedented crisis due to Corona virus spread.
Kindly direct your officers to prosecute the promoters and the senior managers of LG Polymers urgently as a deterrent measure.
Please fix responsibility on APPCB and the officers of the industrial safety wing for allowing such an industrial unit to expand operations and resume manufacturing.
How did a foreign company operating in India conduct its operations so casually and carelessly?
It appears that foreign companies like this one are moving into India as the Union Ministry of Environment, in the name of "easing business", is progressively relaxing the environment clearance procedures and encouraging polluting industries to set up shop in the country, knowing well that even if they violate the law of the land, they will get protection from the official organs of the State.
Who will pay for the adverse health impact on the workers and the people in the vicinity? Both IPC proceedings and a heavy civil penalty are called for in this case.

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