The picturesque hills on three sides and the sea on the other make up the unique topography of Visakhapatnam. But thanks to rising pollution, this scenic geographic formation leaves no escape route in the event of a disaster.

Pollution caused by mushrooming industries has set the alarm bells ringing in the city, known for its spoon shaped topography with hills on three sides and the sea on another, leaving no escape route in the event of a major disaster.

Though a spate of accidents have increased the pressure on managements of various industries to substantially raise allocations for pollution control measures, pollution has remained a major concern for several years.

Visakhapatnam got the tag of a hotspot for pollution way back in 1990 when Nagpur-based NEERI, in a study, expressed serious concern over the level of pollution.

In 2009, the Central Pollution Control Board, in its Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index, identified Visakhapatnam as a “critically polluted cluster” and mooted embargo on development of industries and expansion of existing units. “Rise in suspended particulate matter, deterioration in ambient air quality, groundwater table, and increase in respiratory, skin, and other problems in the vicinity of various industries need to be taken seriously as public safety is of utmost concern,” said Andhra University professor D.E. Babu. There is an increase in the number of accidents at various industries, in some cases causing fatalities.

“We are concerned at the recent spate of accidents. The government is for industrialisation but not at the cost of public safety. Hence, we will serve closure notice on those industries that fail to ensure installation of foolproof safety mechanisms,” Minister for Infrastructure and Investments Ganta Srinivasa Rao said after visiting a bulk drug manufacturing unit at Parawada, which suffered extensive damage following a fire accident.

A recent review meeting held here gave a month’s deadline to the industries to get all clearances after Director-General of Fire Services N. Sambasiva Rao disclosed that only five out of 45 units functioning at Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City had ‘no objection certificate’ for fire safety from the Fire Services Department. Experts want scientific study to identify pollution-causing units and corrective measures.

“We should have taken into consideration the cumulative factors causing pollution in a particular area, instead of indulging in blame game based on half-baked information,” HPCL Director (Refineries) K. Murali told The Hindu.