HUMAN ERROR: VIZAG GAS LEAK

by Akanksha Chhabra

Introduction

Environment protection has always been threatened by the act of humans which behave like animals. A small error in their actions always leads to the destruction of environment which in return has to be payed off by mankind. All such disasters may be compensatory too but it becomes breath-taking when no compensation is generated in that regard. Since years, spine thrilling errors such as Bhopal Gas Leak Tragedy, BP Oil Spill and a thick booklet till now which has reached to Vizag Gas Leak have been caused. It is the duty of the government and the factory owners to take into note the causes of such disasters through which it can be prohibited in near future by proper care and caution. This leave a lifelong effects on our lives in many ways, such as, first of all leave an impact on human life, which includes loss of human life, loss of livelihood, displacement, education and other several factors. Other than this it also leaves a negative impact on economy, ecology and obviously environment. Disaster is measured by the impact factors of various fields. The severity of the disaster is directly linked with the impact factors grading. Higher the impacts of a disaster, more devastating and fearful the disaster is.

Whenever these disasters take place, it leaves a very breath-taking impact on the environment as well as on the lives of the people for hundreds of years. Also, in many instances, all such damages remain beyond repair or full compensation.

“An environmental disaster is a disaster to the natural environment due to human activity, which distinguishes it from the concept of a natural disaster.”


Vizag Gas Leak - Case Analysis

Vizag gas leak was an industrial accident that come about at the LG Polymers chemical plant in R.R. Venkatapuram Village on the early morning of May7,2020. The resultant vapour cloud spread over a radius of about three kilometers, affecting all the nereby areas and the concerned village. The cause for the gas leak is stated to be the malfunction in the cooling system of styrene storage tanks as suspected. Nearly 200-250 families were evacuated from villages in a five kilometre radius around the plant.[1]

Hundreds of people were rushed to hospitals with breathing difficulties and burning sensation in eyes. Many had been found lying on the ground knocked out due to the effects of the gas. Also, the death toll had rose to twelve today and more than 1,000 people were reportedly exposed to the gas.[2]

It was stated by the forensic official that, TBC must be mixed to inhibit polymerization of styrene. TBC is mixed and transported during transport also. Temperature should be well-kept below 20 degree centigrade. During the lockdown, the specialized team would have remixed TBC, but it may haven’t fall out. The cooling process was also not maintained. This let to the generation of enormous heat. Vapour started coming out through the breather.


Panels to study the impact of Gas Leak

Certain committees have been appointed to study the situation as well as the impact of gas Leak in Venktapuram. An internal committee comprising of DCS Varma, director of factories, former director of LG Polymers, Ananataram Ganpati, technical expert and KBS Prasad, deputy director of factories as members will verify whether proper procedures are followed in the industry or not.

An expert committee with Andhra University professors was formed. This committee with be further headed by S Bala Prasad and SV Naidu of civil engineering department and D Bhanukumar. Indian Institute of Science Education and Research at Tirupati has been advised to interact with these committees.[3]


Actions Taken

FIR: As a part of investigation, FIR was filed against LG Polymers by the local police. The report allowed for possible charges under section 278(making the environment noxious to health), 284(negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter), 337(causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others), 338(causing grievous hurt by act endangering life) and section 304(causing death by doing any rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide) of the Indian Penal Code(IPC).[4]

National green Tribunal: The NGT has levied an interim penalty of Rs.50 crore on LG Polymers. “Having regard to the prima facie material heeding the extent of damage to life, public health and environment, we direct LG Polymers India Pvt Ltd to straight off deposit an initial amount of Rs.50crore, with the district magistrate, vishakhapatnam, which will stay on by further orders of this tribunal. The amount is being set having regard to the financial worth of the company and the extent of the damage caused.”[5] Also, under the Liability Insurance Act 1991, people who have suffered from a hazardous substance used by an industry, can file a claim with the local collector within 5 years of the accident. This act helps the victim to claim compensation immediately than through the courts and can still approach the courts for higher compensations.

Human Rights Commission: NHRC also took suo moto cognizance of all the media reports. It was also observed that there had been no prima facie reports of human error or negligence, the incident was a serious violation of human rights. NHRC also declared that “Right to life of the victims has been generally violated. At a time when human lives across the country are at stake due to spread of the COVID-19 virus and everyone is forced to stay indoors, the gruesome misfortune has come as a bolt from the blue.”[6]

Centre issues guidelines: It was stated that after the COVID-19 lockdown ends, the first week for the manufacturing units will be considered as the trial period. As due to the lockdown many industries were unable to follow the established SOP and thus, the manufacturing facilities, pipelines, valves, etc may have residual chemicals, which may pose risk.


Related Case Laws

All the below discussed cases are related to the air impurities and cases of like nature.

Subhash Kumar v. state of Bihar[7] , it was held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that right to live is a fundamental right under Article 21 of Constitution of India and included right to enjoyment of pollution free air for the full enjoyment of life.


Virender Gaur v. State of Haryana[8]

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed environmental ecological air pollution should be regarded as violation of Article 21. Therefore, sanitary environment is an inbuilt facet of right to healthy life and it would be infeasible to live a life with human dignity without a flourishing environment.


M.C. Mehta v. Union Of India[9]

The Hon’ble Supreme Court directed that certain industries which were not showing any progress regarding the installation of air pollution control system. In compliance with SC’s earlier order should be closed keeping in mind Article19(1)(g) read with Article 19(6) and Article 21.


M.C. Mehta V. Kamal Nath[10]

The Court held that any enterprise that is involved in an implicitly dangerous activity is ‘absolutely’ liable to compensate all those subject by the accident. The key feature of the judgement was the principle of ‘absolute liability’ in which no exceptions (such as an act of God) are streamed.


Bhopal Gas Leak Tragedy[11]

The Bhopal gas disaster is called the ‘worst industrial accident’ in history. In December 1984, over 45 tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate gas escaped from an insecticide plant that was owned by American firm Union Carbide Corporation, killing between 15,000 and 20,000 people in the city. Over half a million individuals sustained from respiratory problems, irritation in the eye, and blindness. Later, inquiry disclosed that the leakage had become due to depleted safety function at the understaffed plant.


Suggestion

The Andhra Pradesh government must focus immediately on the medical needs of these who are grievously suffering from the gas leak, which has inevitably led to comparisons with the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster.

Access to health care: Solatium payments and compensation for the victims and families are important, but so is access to the very best quality of health look after the victims. The incident is additionally a warning for industries across India.

Develop safety culture: There’s a requirement to adopt proper safety measures following the simplest international standards. Three-tier measures are required, which involves

Authorities must check out the security aspects and take all precautionary measures beforehand, because the lockdown starts being gradually lifted. As India aims for a wider manufacturing base, it must strengthen its approach to public and occupational safety. Transparent oversight isn't a hurdle to industrial growth. It advances sustainable development by eliminating terrible mistakes.

[1] .Massive gas leak in Vishakhapatnam, Thousands affected, centre monitoring situation: 10 points, India Today [2] Vizag LG Polymers Gas Leak: The Times of India [3] Newindianexpress.com [4] Bhattacharjee, Summit, The Hindu [5] National Green Tribunal [6] The Hindu [7] A.I.R. 1991 S.C. 420 [8] 1995 (2) SCC 577 [9] JT 1998 (7) SC 275, (1998) 9 SCC 93 [10] AIR 1987 SC 1086 [11] 1987 SCR(1) 819, AIR 1987 965

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