Huge quantity of ammonium nitrate is stored in city, says former Union Power Secretary

Several precautions being suggested for the last five years about certain restrictions on ammonium nitrate, a chemical used for making explosives, and its distribution in the country would have averted the blasts in Hyderabad on Thursday, former Union Power Secretary E.A.S. Sarma said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

A huge quantity of ammonium nitrate is imported through Visakhapatnam port and 1.20 lakh tonnes of material is stored here. “Is there really a need for importing such a huge quantity of explosive or are anti-national elements behind the unusual spurt in quantity of exports during the last three years?” asked Mr. Sarma, stressing the need for proper monitoring by officials on transport of the chemical to find out where it was going and for what purpose.

“There are many lacunae and officials are careless or casual,” he said in his letter. Letters to all top officials in the past failed to evoke the required action,” he said.

It had taken a long time to declare the chemical as an explosive, but rules were not framed properly regarding its packing and transport, pointed out Mr. Sarma.

“Allowing one per cent of loss during transport provides access of the explosive to anti-national elements,” he said. Though route approval was necessary for a truck to transport the explosive, the trucks must be fitted with GPS device and report at every police station on the way. Antecedents of every one involved in the trade and transport of the chemical must be verified. Stringent measures adopted in the U.S. and European countries must be adopted here, he said. “Pre-emptive measures are necessary, instead of taking some action after a blast. More delay would only cause greater disaster,” said the former bureaucrat, urging the Prime Minister to take up a strong and quick action.

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