[WSMDiscuss] Fwd: CEJI Statement : Vishakapatnam LG Plant Was A Disaster Waiting To Happen

Ashish Kothari ashishkothari at riseup.net
Mon May 11 15:51:33 CEST 2020


In an 'accident' that immediately reminds one of the horrifying Bhopal 
gas tragedy of 1984, a toxic gas leak from a South Korean polymers 
factory in south-eastern India has killed at least a dozen people, and 
injured many thousands. the cover-ups and lax approach to this tragedy 
are also similar. Nothing seems to have been learnt from eitehr Bhopal 
or the very many other industrial 'accidents' that have taken place in 
India in the last few decades, in terms of what kinds of industries to 
allow, where to allow them, what kind of emergency procedures should be 
in place, how liability can be fixed and so on ... a classic case of how 
'development' is violence. See below a statement issued by the Coalition 
of Environmental Justice in India.


-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: 	CEJI Statement : Vishakapatnam LG Plant Was A Disaster Waiting 
To Happen
Date: 	Mon, 11 May 2020 12:48:31 +0000
From: 	ESG India <esg at esgindia.org>
Reply-To: 	ESG India <esg at esgindia.org>
To: 	chikikothari at gmail.com

CEJI Statement : Vishakapatnam LG Plant Was A Disaster Waiting To Happen 
Environmental and Regulatory authorities complicit in such disasters

  Public Statement : Vishakapatnam LG Plant Was A Disaster Waiting To Happen

11 May 2020 by *Coalition for Environmental Justice in India* (CEJI)

Download the statement in pdf format 

    *Environmental and Regulatory authorities complicit in such disasters*

The early morning leak of a deadly gas from L G Polymers plant located 
west of Vishakapatnam in Andhra Pradesh on 7^th  May, is frighteningly 
reminiscent of the disastrous gas leak in Bhopal from the Union 
Carbide/Dow Chemical’s plant on the night of 2-3^rd  December 1984. 
Video footage and ground reports reveal thousands have been horribly 
impacted in their sleep and this resulted in the death of at least a 
dozen. It is because of the courageous intervention of local youth, 
local police and personnel of the National Disaster Response Force, who 
acted with urgency at enormous risk to their lives, that hundreds were 
saved from the worst consequences.

Quite unnecessarily and typically, Andhra Pradesh’s Director General of 
Police Mr. Damodar Goutam Sawang, IPS, appears to have uncritically and 
rather quickly rushed to the company’s defense that it was “strictly 
following all protocols”,  when there was no way to ascertaining if they 
did, within hours of the accident.  Chief Minister Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy 
has also stated the company is “reputed”, in a way explaining for the 
company.  This when the company has admitted in an affidavit that it had 
expanded operations without due consent from State and Central 
regulatory authorities.

Hours before the LG incident, at least 7 workers fell sick after being 
exposed to noxious fumes at the Shakti Paper Mill in Raigarh, 
Chattisgarh. At least 8 workers were seriously injured and scalded, 
later in the day, when a boiler exploded at Neyveli Lignite Corporation 
in Tamilnadu.  These three incidents within hours of each other, in 
different parts of India, are indicative of the dangers latent to 
opening up industrial production, several weeks after being forced to 
suddenly shut systems down due to a lockdown enforced across India and 
without any prior planning or chance for preparedness.

In a situation where review and enforcement of environmental, health, 
risk and social safeguards by regulatory agencies are sloppy, these 
incidents expose, once again, text book cases of criminal complicity 
between regulatory agencies, environmental authorities, land use 
clearance agencies and corporate bodies involved in causing such 
disasters. Such corrupt systems are repeatedly exposing workers and the 
public to totally unacceptable risks due to industrial accidents and 
release of toxic materials, often with irreversible consequences. If 
corrective measures are not adopted immediately, such instance could 
recur, and with greater regularity, as industrial production and energy 
generation reopens post-lockdown.

*A disaster waiting to happen from a company philosophical about 
statutory compliance:*

The quality of application for environmental clearance for expansion of 
the LG India Pvt. Ltd. facility at Vizag filed by Mr. P Chandramohan 
Rao, Director (Operations) is indicative of the lackadaisical approach 
adopted by the company in conforming to statutory public safety and 
environmental norms. In response to a question if hazardous chemicals 
used in the plant would impact local people, the application claims “No 
sensitive receptors are present in the immediate vicinity of the site. 
The project shall not have any significant impact on vulnerable groups 
of people” (Item 3.4). Mr. Rao further claims that “all the hazardous 
materials will be stored in MS drums, in a covered shed and no 
contamination of soil is expected. *Same philosophy will be followed for 
the after expansion*.” (Item 7.1, emphasis supplied) Clearly, MoEF&CC 
and APPCB officials and experts have ritually reviewed the application 
and obviously have not found anything wrong with a company that relies 
on ‘philosophy’ regarding critical safety functions.

This ‘accident’ was waiting to happen and is the direct outcome of a 
very serious breach of safety protocol in handling toxic and hazardous 
chemicals. As is now reported, LG opened the plant for production 
without sufficient strength of technically qualified personnel and 
supportive staff present who are critical to dealing with any and all 
exigencies. /Profit making and cost cutting appears to have clearly 
gained priority over public safety and environmental compliance.  This 
is clearly indefensible./

What has also become evident is that the company was not in any state of 
readiness to handle the emergency once the accident occurred. 
Preliminary accounts reveal LG had not instituted any of the mechanisms 
essential per the Chemical Accidents (Emergency Planning, Preparedness 
and Response) Rules, 1996 and Hazardous Waste Management Rules 2016. 
This is clearly evident from the fact that local youth and police were 
the first respondents to the emergency.

*State and Central Regulatory agencies complicit in this disaster: *

Records reveal that L G Polymers was operating the plant claiming it as 
an “essential” industry, though all it produces is polystyrene pellets 
used in making plastic, as in children’s toys.  As Mr. EAS Sarma IAS 
(Retd.), who retired as Power Secretary of India, has stated, the 
company possibly benefited from complicity of Andhra Pradesh Pollution 
Control Board (APPCB) and land use planning authorities, who accorded 
the *Red Category* project approval to continue operating in a densely 
populated region of Vishakapatnam in gross violation of all applicable 
norms and standards. The company possibly expanded production, and 
admittedly applied for /post facto/ clearance from Ministry of 
Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC). This application ought 
to have been rejected at the very instance of filing and action 
initiated against this rogue company.

Needless to state, officials and experts involved in approving the LG 
plant, be they from AP State Planning Board, Industry Department, APPCB, 
MoEF&CC, and such other approval and regulatory authorities, are 
complicit of criminal malfeasance in this disaster.  While the owners 
and managers must be held accountable for this crime, officials and 
experts who were aware of the lack of compliance of standards by the 
company must similarly be held accountable for this heinous crime. 
Officials are particularly guilty of allowing this RED Category industry 
to continue to operate in a densely crowded neighbourhood of a major 
metropolis, when this has been absolutely prohibited.  What is worse is 
that they approved the reopening of this factory during the lockdown 
(even though it is a non-essential industry) and without reviewing if 
safeguards were in place.

In a Press Conference held jointly by the Union Ministry of Home 
Affairs, Union Ministry of Health and the National Disaster Management 
Authority, a few hours after the LG plant disaster, the leak of styrene 
was confirmed. But agencies have not, as yet, shared test results to 
confirm if it was only styrene vapours that leaked, or there were 
deadlier releases. Besides, it is also not clear if sufficient quality 
controlled samples were collected from within and around the impact zone 
to ensure appropriate legal action can be initiated against the company.

Taking into consideration the above, we demand:

*In the case of LG facility:*

 1. The entire factory and the impacted region must be secured
    immediately, and taken out of the control of the owners. The
    facility must be monitored and managed, and steps initiated to shut
    it down immediately. All workers employed in the facility must be
    absorbed into other operations of the company.
 2. Every one impacted must be provided the best care and treatment to
    full recovery at no cost at all to the victims, whatever be the
    duration of their treatment and recovery, guided by the Principle of
    Inter-generational Equity, as the chemicals leaked are known to be
    carcinogenic and neurotoxic, and there could be inter-generational
    consequences. The cost involved in taking care of victims must be
    recovered from LG India Pvt. Ltd. as per Polluter Pays Principle.
 3. We hope serum prolactin and urine tests have been undertaken on
    anyone exposed to the toxic gas to determine the extent of exposure
    and the degree of damage caused.
 4. The compensation package announced for the victims of the disaster
    by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh is welcome. But this must be
    considered as merely /ex gratia/ and appropriate compensation must
    be determined through judicial review.
 5. All families affected by the disaster must be immediately
    compensated financially without any delay. As has been demanded by
    trade unions, at least one member of the family of the deceased and
    of those with critically injured, should be provided tenured
    employment at the cost of LG India Pvt. Ltd.
 6. Every neighbourhood and village impacted must be comprehensively
    reviewed for damage caused, and victims must be rehabilitated. The
    Local Crisis Management Group, if not constituted, must immediately
    be organized under the Chemical Accidents (Emergency Planning,
    Preparedness and Response) Rules, 1996, to guide this process. Due
    enquiry must be initiated why such Groups were not organized before,
    and action initiated against such dereliction of obligatory duties.
 7. A highly competent team of experts drawn from National Disaster
    Management Authority, Central Pollution Control Board, Indian
    Institute of Toxicology Research, National Institute for Research in
    Environmental Health, and Non-Governmental Toxicology and Public
    Health experts, /with half of the members not from within any
    government agency/, must be constituted to comprehensively
    investigate this incident and produce a report to the public at
    large *(no secrecy)* within two weeks. This Committee may also be
    tasked to instruct precautions essential in re-opening industrial
    operations in the state.  This Committee must be headed by a Retired
    Judge of the High Court and it must follow due process as per the
    Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent so that public trust
    and confidence in its findings – directly related to the
    transparency and fairness with which it conducts its proceedings, is
    secured. Consequently, the High Powered Committee set up by Andhra
    Pradesh Government to investigate the incident, and which is
    populated by the very officers who are complicit in this disaster,
    must be scrapped forthwith.
 8. Two Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Station are supposed
    to be working within the LG plant area as per clearance conditions.
    The aforesaid committee must investigate if these stations were
    working and all documentation from these must be secured.  The
    Committee must also verify if fresh uncontaminated samples of air
    have been taken to analyse beyond any doubt the nature of chemicals
    that escaped into the impact zone. Similarly, soil and water samples
    from multiple locations must be taken and analysed to establish the
    nature and cause of the contamination and damage.
 9. The Hon’ble High Court of Andhra Pradesh has taken /suo
    moto/ cognizance of this ‘accident’. The Government of Andhra
    Pradesh must file an affidavit before the Court praying the case
    must be dealt with in accordance with the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s
    decision in Oleum Gas Leak Case, where in such instances the
    Principle of Absolute Liability was found necessary.  A similar
    affidavit must also be filed before the Central Bench of the Hon’ble
    National Green Tribunal which has also taken /suo moto/ cognizance
    of the disaster, but merely under the Principle of Strict Liability.
10. The Managing Director of LG India Pvt. Ltd. and senior managers of
    the company must be immediately arrested for this ghastly crime.
    They must not be allowed to escape, as has happened in the Bhopal
    Gas Crime.
11. Each and every official and expert of MoEFCC, Industries Department,
    Land use planning authority and APPCB who handled LG’s applications
    for clearances and permissions, must be held guilty of omission and
    commission in carrying out due diligence, and necessary criminal and
    civil action initiated against them as per law.
12. The company that conducted the EIA for the LG India Pvt. Ltd., and
    also the auditor who extended the ISO certification, must be
    immediately blacklisted.

*Action necessary across India before reopening industrial production:*

13. The Government of India must immediately stop any and all measures
    underway in welcoming polluting industries from China and elsewhere
    which it announced recently is a measure to help revive the
    post-COVID economy. From Bhopal to Vizag, India has been a site of
    some of the most devastating industrial disasters, and MoEF&CC and
    Industries Ministry has shown no seriousness whatsoever in dealing
    with the risks and consequences.  This lackaidaiscal approach must
    end now.
14. All efforts promoting the dilution of environmental regulatory
    standards of India, being aggressively promoted by Mr. Prakash
    Javdekar – at once the Indian Minister for Environment and also of
    Heavy Industries, obviously involving conflict of interest, must
    end. Prime Minister Mr. Narendra  Modi must at least now appreciate
    the critical importance of having a minister with uncontestable
    competence heading MoEF&Cc.
15. The Vizag situation is a clear and present indicator of the
    devastation of this ‘profit first – nature and human rights later’
    attitude.  The ‘/principle of utmost good faith’/ in the
    investor/industrialist relied upon by the TSR Subramanian Committee
    set up by Prime Minister Modi, and which promoted dilutions of
    environmental and social impact review and regulations, must be
    immediately abandoned.
16. All three industrial disasters has exposed the callousness on the
    part of operators of hazardous processes and their pursuit of
    profits. Complicit in such illegalities are   incompetent regulatory
    agencies and policy makers who have permitted industries to violate
    applicable standards and the law, inclusive of and not limited to
    the Environment Impact Assessment Notification. Rather than visit
    violators with stringent corrective action, they are rewarding them
    with /ex post facto/ clearances, resulting in disasters.  All
    pending applications for /ex post facto/ clearances should thereby
    be rejected forthwith. Any grant of such permissions must be
    reviewed by a committee comprised of independent experts.
17. Revamp all State Pollution Control Boards by including citizens and
    independent experts and reducing membership of industry and state
    representatives, so that the body can play its role as state in law
    to ensure public interest is prime in its decision making.
18. All industrial areas must be immediately monitored by local
    environment monitoring committees involving local residents, so that
    they can be true wardens of public health, safety and the
    environment. Similarly, local and district Crisis Management Groups
    must be established, and they must oversee necessary safety
    protocols in and around industrial processes involving hazardous
    chemicals, and especially before opening up production following
    lifting of lockdown, as is necessary per the Chemical
    Accidents (Emergency Planning, Preparedness and
    Response) Rules, 1996 and Hazardous Waste Management Rules 2016.
19. All precautions necessary for industrial production as per Factories
    Act must be in place. Regulatory authorities must ensure strict
    conformance with compliance essential in hazardous processes as per
    Chapter IVA of the Act.
20. Regulatory agencies, particularly Pollution Control Boards and
    Environment Ministries, must immediately verify existence and
    viability of on site and off site emergency Plans and their
    compliance with standards demanded in Chemical Accidents (Emergency
    Planning, Preparedness and Response) Rules, 1996.

*Released on behalf of CEJI by Environment Support Group, Bangalore.*

*Endorsed by:*


 1. All India Forum of Forest Movements
 2. Bargi Bandh Visthapit and Prabhavit Sangh
 3. Centre for Financial Accountability
 4. Centre for Financial Accountability, New Delhi – CFA
 5. Chipko-Appiko Movement, Karnataka
 6. Chutka Parmanu Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti
 7. Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group, Chennai
 8. Environment Support Group – ESG
 9. Focus on the Global South
10. Gamana Mahila Samuha, Bangalore
11. Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Himachal Pradesh
12. Jharkhand Mining Area Coordination Committee
13. Madhya Pradesh Jansangharsh Samanvay Samiti
14. Mahengi Bijali Abhiyan, Madhya Pradesh
15. Mines, Mineral & People
16. NAPM, Madhya Pradesh
17. National Fishworkers Forum
18. People’s Watch
19. SETU Centre for Social Knowledge and Action


 1. Anil T Varghese, Delhi Solidarity Group
 2. Aruna Rodrigues, Lead Petitioner in Supreme Court for a moratorium
    on GMOs
 3. Ashish Kothari, Kalpavriksh
 4. Ashok Shrimali, SETU Centre for Social Knowledge and Action
 5. Bhargavi Rao, ESG/CFA
 6. Dharmesh Shah
 7. Dr. Laifungbam Debabrata Roy, Centre for Organisation Research &
    Education (CORE), Manipur
 8. Gautam Mody, General Secretary, New Trade Union Initiative
 9. Harish Vasudevan, Lawyer, High Court of Kerala
10. Himanshu Thakkar, Coordinator, South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers &
    People (SANDRP)
11. K Ramnarayan, Uttarakhand
12. Leo F. Saldanha, Environment Support Group, Bangalore
13. Madhu Bhushan, Bangalore
14. Malika Virdi, Uttarakhand
15. Mamata Dash
16. Mari Marcel Thekaekara
17. Nandini
18. Narasimha Reddy Dhonti, Hyderabad
19. Niraj Bhatt, Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group, Chennai
20. Nityanand Jayaraman, Chennai Solidarity Group, Chennai
21. Pandurang Hegde, Chipko-Appiko Movement, Karnataka
22. Prof. Babu Mathew, Centre for Public Policy, National Law School of
    India University
23. Ravi Rebbapragada, Samata
24. Rohit Prajapati, Environment Activist, Gujarat
25. Sahana, Bangalore
26. Shripad Dharmadhikary, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Pune
27. Soumya Dutta, South Asian People’s Action on Climate Crisis (SAPACC) &
    Movement for Advancing Understanding on Sustainability And Mutuality
28. Sudhir Vombatkere, FOcus on the Global South
29. Suprabha Seshan, Conservationist, Ashoka Fellow
30. Tara Murali, Chennai
31. Vandana Shiva, Navdanya, New Delhi
32. Vijayan MJ, Pakistan India People’s Form for Peace & Democracy
    (India Chapter)
33. Vinay K Sreenivasa, Advocate, Bangalore
34. Wilfred D’costa, Indian Social Action Forum -INSAF

*Address for contact**: *

Environment Support Group, 1572 Ring Road, Banashankari II Stage, 
Bangalore 560070. Tel: +91-80-26713559 ~ 60 Web: www.esgindia.org 

Queries and further information, please direct them through 
sana at esgindia.org. Cell: 98699 41967





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