In a suo moto case registered against the fateful incident of Vizag Gas Leak in Andhra Pradesh, the National Green Tribunal has constituted a five-member Committee to inspect the site and the same is expected to submit a report within ten days.
A bench comprising of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairperson; Justice Sheo Kumar Singh, Judicial Member and Dr. Nagin Nanda, Expert Member has in the interregnum directed LG Polymers India Pvt. Ltd., owner of the plant from where the gas leaked, to deposit Rs. 50 Crore, with the District Magistrate, Vishakhapatnam.
The tribunal ordered, “Having regard to the prima facie material regarding the extent of damage to life, public health and environment, we direct LG Polymers India Pvt., Limited to forthwith deposit an initial amount of Rs. 50 Crore, with the District Magistrate, Vishakhapatnam, which will abide by further orders of this Tribunal,“
The order was passed observing the principal of “Strict Liability” under the environmental laws.
The bench added, “Leakage of hazardous gas at such a scale adversely affecting public health and environment, clearly attracts the principle of ‘Strict Liability’ against the enterprise engaged in hazardous or inherently dangerous industry. Such an entity is liable to restore the damage caused under the Environment Law, apart from other statutory liability.“
The 5-member Committee, comprising of Justice B. Seshasayana Reddy, Former Judge, A.P. High Court; Prof. Ch V Rama Chandra Murthy, Former Vice Chancellor, Andhra University, Vizag; Professor Pulipati King, Head of Chemical Engineering Department, Andhra University, Vizag; Member Secretary, CPCB; Director, CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology; and Head, NEERI, Vizag has been instructed to “visit and inspect the site at the earliest and give its report before the next date.”
The Committee has been asked to specifically report on the following issues:
- The sequence of events;
- Causes of failure and persons and authorities responsible therefor;
- Extent of damage to life, human and non-human; public health; and environment – including, water, soil, air;
- Steps to be taken for compensation of victims and restitution of the damaged property and environment, and the cost involved;
- Remedial measures to prevent recurrence; and
- Any other incidental or allied issues found relevant.
The Committee has been given liberty to take assistance of such experts, individuals and institutions as may be considered necessary.
The Chairman, CPCB has been asked to steer and facilitate the functioning of the Committee using available technology in view of the COVID-19 lockdown
Further, The Member Secretary of CPCB has been appointed as the Nodal Agency for coordination with the Committee and the state authorities viz., DM, Vishakhapatnam, and Regional Office, while Andhra Pradesh State PCB have been directed to provide logistic support to the Committee to enable their fact-finding and reporting.
Inter alia, the Tribunal observed that the gas leak had resulted from the failure to comply with the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989 that require on-site and off-site Emergency Plans to ensure prevention of damage.
Therefore, keeping the above in mind apart, the Tribunal has ordered that the statutory authorities responsible for authorizing and regulating such activities may be accountable for their lapses while dealing with the matter apart from recognizing the Strict Liability of the company
The matter will now taken up on May 18.
In the meanwhile, the Court has issued notices to various stakeholders to provide them an opportunity of hearing before proceeding to provide statutory relief and compensation to the victims of the accident, and restitution of damaged property and environment.
While serving notices upon Andhra Pradesh State PCB, District Magistrate, Vishakhapatnam, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF&CC) and LG Polymers India Pvt., Limited, the bench observed “With a view to deal with the issue, it is necessary to ascertain the facts relating to the extent of damage, extent of failure and consider remedial measures. The affected parties have to be given the opportunity of being heard.”
All the above-mentioned parties have been asked to file their response before May 18.
During the wee hours of Thursday, a major leak of Styrene gas occurred from a polymer plant near Visakhapatnam, impacting villages within a radius of five-km, leaving many people dead and thousand others suffering from breathlessness and other problems.
Apart from NGT, the National Human Rights Commission had also taken suo moto cognizance of the deaths and human sufferings caused by the tragedy
Case Title: In re: Gas Leak at LG Polymers Chemical Plant in RR Venkatapuram Village Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh
Case No.: Original Application No. 73/2020
Quorum: Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, Chairperson; Justice Sheo Kumar Singh, Judicial Member and Dr. Nagin Nanda, Expert Member
Read the Order here: