The LPG leak from a tanker at Angamaly on Monday may have passed off without causing any damage or claiming lives. But the incident is a grim reminder of the fact that the district lacked an efficient emergency response mechanism. The district has the most number of industrial units dealing with hazardous chemicals in the State. Thousands of tankers crisscross its roads with highly inflammable and hazardous chemicals.
The Chemical Emergency Response Centre (CHEMREC) at Kakkanad, the only such facility in the State, registered as a chemical handling society under the Factories and Boilers Department, continues to remain toothless almost four years after it was inaugurated with much fanfare.Limited role
CHEMREC lacks both manpower and equipment to face a chemical emergency like an LPG leak. It merely serves as an agency to coordinate the response in the event of such an emergency, which is limited to passing on the information about the accident to oil and industrial companies with the wherewithal to deal with the situation.
The centre continues to be manned by the already overburdened staff of the Factories and Boilers
Department. Repeated pleas to allocate sufficient workforce to facilitate the operation of the centre round-the-clock has gone unheeded.Useless equipment
The equipment bought by the centre with an initial funding of Rs.30 lakh by the Union government became useless as they were bought with insufficient understanding of their use. There was no order or priority. More than the usefulness of the equipment, the focus was on utilising the funds within the allotted time.
The initial project report drawn up put the investment for purchasing equipment for CHEMREC at Rs.1.33 crore.
But the centre was never allocated such a huge amount.
A full fledged HAZMAT (Hazardous Materials) rescue vehicle, which is a critical component of chemical emergency response centres in developed countries and a vehicle for shifting manpower during emergencies continue to remain pipedreams.
Chemical emergency management kits, relief and response materials like ambulances, evacuation vans, fire-fighting equipment and other safety gadgets are vital for improving the efficiency of CHEMREC. But these things alone will not help the centre to live up to its responsibility unless expert hands are recruited to handle them.