‘Gas chamber’ of Mumbai and a fine of  ₹286.2 crore that will benefit whom?

‘Gas chamber’ of Mumbai and a fine of ₹286.2 crore that will benefit whom?

On Thursday, the National Green Tribunal has directed four companies to pay ₹286.2 crore as compensation for damage to environment.

The bench was hearing a 2014 application by petitioners (Charudatt Koli, Dayaram Mahulkar, Mohan Mhatre and Dattaram Koli) that sought the closure of SLCL which is located less than 10 metres from Mahul and Ambapada Village.

The NGT asked Aegis Logistics Limited (ALL) to pay ₹142 crore; Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd., ₹76.5 crore; Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd., ₹67.5 crore; and Sea Lord Containers Limited (SLCL), ₹ 0.2 crore, as compensation.

The NGT said that though there may be many reasons for presence of Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the atmosphere like vehicular emissions, it cannot be denied that Sea Lord Containers Ltd, Aegis Logistics Ltd, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. contribute substantially and predominantly to the VOCs in Mahul and Ambapada villages.

Among the major contributors to air pollution in Chembur are logistic services storing oil, gas and chemical items; and oil companies releasing VOCs during loading, storage and unloading or handling of hazardous chemicals at various stages.

The prolonged exposure to hazardous air pollutants, even at minuscule levels, may weaken the lungs and other organs. Conditions prevailing in the area are sometimes likened to that of a ‘gas chamber’.

said National Green Tribunal

“It was only because of these reasons that the companies had been taking actions to arrest the fugitive emissions which were particularly noticeable after 2015 and of late the industries have acted on implementation of action plan” the NGT said.

While directing the firms to submit the funds to different accounts, NGT has directed the constitution of a 10-member joint committee to prepare an action plan for pollution abatement over not more than five years. The plan may, in particular, provide for dealing with health issues of the inhabitants / residents and measures for control of pollution in the area, treating Ambapada, Mahul, Chembur and other contiguous areas (as may be specified by the committee) to be a Special Air Pollution Control Area.

The committee comprises two senior nominees of the CPCB; a Union environment ministry representative; a Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) member; a nominee from the state health secretary; a Mumbai district collector; and representatives of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and King Edward Memorial Hospital.The Maharashtra PCB would be the nodal agency.

“They (companies) will pay up the amount and continue to pollute our area, our homes.”

Said a resident

“We still pray and demand for closure of the SLCL unit which continues to cause severe chemical pollution and damage to our health,” said Koli.

“Industries have used Best Available Technology to control VOC emissions, but still if these are the levels of pollution, then one can easily imagine the amount of continuous exposure residents are facing and the severe impact on our health,” he further added.

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