World Environment Day

Visakhapatnam is sitting on a pollution bomb

Cause for concern: A file photo shows formation of a thick layer of smoke over the city due to industrial pollution.

Cause for concern: A file photo shows formation of a thick layer of smoke over the city due to industrial pollution.  

On World Environment Day, a look at how Andhra Pradesh's largest industrial hub is sitting on a powder keg.

With no check on industrial accidents which occur at regular intervals, Visakhapatnam, the largest industrial hub in Andhra Pradesh, is sitting on a powder keg.

Pollution, be it water, air or land has reached alarming proportions notwithstanding denial by the official machinery due to apparent reasons. Social audit and third party inspection of new facilities, promised by the powers-that-be has remained an empty rhetoric.

Located with industries spread over on three sides and the sea at one side, the city has spoon-shaped topography leaving no scope for people escape in the event of a major catastrophe.

When the worst-ever industrial accident occurred at HPCL Visakh Refinery following a vapour cloud explosion on September 14, 1997 killing at least 60 persons, an estimated one million people fled to far-off places due to fear for their lives. After that there is no let-up in fatal accidents worsening the quality of life due to deteriorating air ambient quality, noise pollution as well as water contamination.

Fish-kill has become a regular affair due to release of industrial effluents and sewage water into the sea. Noise pollution has crossed decibel level of 200 in NAD Kotha Road and other busy areas.

“The city is facing all sorts of environmental issues. The possible challenge will be the quality and quantity of water and loss of green cover. Water will be become a big problem in future unless the policy-makers give sufficient attention to this issue,” S. Bala Prasad, professor, environmental engineering, Andhra University, told The Hindu.

Visakhapatnam was given the critically polluted cluster tag by the Central Pollution Control Board in the Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index notified in 2009.

A few years later the moratorium it clamped on Greenfield and Brownfield industrial projects was removed following what it narrated as improvement in emission parameters.

Four threats

Noted social activist and former IAS officer E.A.S. Sarma said Vizagites have four threats to worry about.

First, as a result of shrinkage in the capacity of the local reservoirs due to widespread damage to the catchments and extensive damage and contamination of the surface and groundwater sources, with Polavaram water not in immediate sight, there is an impending water crisis.

Second, industrial and traffic pollution is rapidly spreading far and wide into air and water entering the food chain and causing wide ranging diseases including cancer.

Third, the city is generating so much of organic/ inorganic garbage and bio-medical waste that GVMC is unable to handle it except dumping it irresponsibly at Kapulauppada to spread infection all around.

Mr. Sarma said finally, in the absence of sound urban planning approaches, more and more auxiliary population is being forced to live in slums where the environment is vitiated and the living conditions are literally sub-Saharan.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 7:07:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/pollution-vizag-sits-on-a-powder-keg/article18719476.ece

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