The city is sitting on a powder keg with the level of industrial pollution turning from bad to worse forcing the denizens to breathe hard.
There seems to be no good news in minimising pollution even after the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in its Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CPEI) Report, identified Visakhapatnam as most polluted industrial cluster in the State a year and a half ago. It was given ‘hotspot for pollution' tag in a study made by NEERI in 1990.
In the event of a catastrophe, the consequences will be very severe as the city is located in a topographical bowl formed by hill ranges – virtually leaving no escape route. The city's topography is such that it has a shape like a spoon with hill ranges on three sides and the sea on another.
Reports say that the total suspended particulate matter even in some residential zones has crossed 200 and the noise pollution is exceeding 75 decibels for over eight hours a day due to industrial activity and automobile pollution.
An estimated million people had a nightmarish experience when a vapour cloud explosion in the Visakh Refinery killed 60 people in 1997. Now, the level of pollution has aggravated due to development of Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City at Parawada, Hetero SEZ at Nakkapali and Petroleum, Chemical, Petrochemical Investment Region between Visakhapatnam and Kakinada.
“We don't know where we are headed for if such type of situation continues. Already there are cases of black lung diseases due to cold dust spreading from the port area to MVP, Seethammadhara and other areas sometime ago,” says E.U.B. Reddy, a professor of environmental science at Andhra University. Studies have confirmed the presence of abnormally high concentration of carcinogens, heavy metals and toxins in parts of the city. Due to this, many are becoming victims of cancer, respiratory, dermatological and other diseases. Following public outcry, the Visakhapatnam Port has grounded work on construction of a soccer stadium-type wall around the port area to prevent spread of pollutants. “This apart, we are going for total mechanisation to put pollution at bare-minimum,” a senior official said.
Unscientific disposal of solid waste, ambient air quality reaching a critical level and high level of ammonia, nitrogen and fluoride in groundwater have also led to identification of the city among India's top most environmentally problematic areas.