“Many units do not have separate exits, proper alarm system”

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has expressed grave concern over the non-implementation of safety guidelines by State government agencies in Sivakasi to avoid recurrence of fire mishaps.

The NDMA has been conducting mock drills in various parts of the country, including Sivakasi, since 2011. After conclusion of two mock drills – during 2012 and August 2013 – the State witnessed two major fire accidents, said NDMA vice-chairman M. Shashidhar Reddy on Monday. Delivering the inaugural address at a three-day conference on ‘Chemical (Industrial) Disaster Management (CIDM)’ organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, he said the NDMA had written to the Chief Minister about the deficiencies found during the mock drills with a request to direct officials to implement safety parameters.

“Though the State government has been implementing several safety measures, lots need to be done. Our report is not meant to find fault with the government. Sivakasi produces 70 per cent of the country’s crackers. We want to encourage the industry and also take care of worker’s lives,” he said.

According to him, many of the units did not have separate exits and a proper alarm system. “The firecracker units are considered small-scale units and hence they do not come under Major Accident Hazard [category]. We allowed them (units) to grow big and are now unable to stop it. Upgrading of equipment has to be done and we have brought this to the notice of the State Revenue Minister,” he said.

Mr. Reddy said there were 1,861 major hazardous units in 301 districts, of which 200 districts have prepared Offsite Disaster Management Plan. In Tamil Nadu, six out of 22 districts were yet to finalise the plan. He also called for strengthening the Institute of Inspectorate as the present strength was inadequate to monitor the hazardous units. While congratulating the State government for setting up State Disaster Response Force, he offered all assistance for training. Currently, the NDMA has 12 battalions, of which the Arakkonam battalion is capable of handling chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear disasters, he said. Allaying the fears of Kasimedu Fishermen Development Association about the presence of huge oil storage tanks in North Chennai, he said they would be shifted to Ennore and Manali shortly.

Revenue Minister Thoppu N.D. Venkatachalam said the State government had taken effective steps to prevent any industry-related disasters and officials had been asked to coordinate with the NDMA to participate in mock drills regularly to check the preparedness.