Visakhapatnam

Unfulfilled promises make residents of Venkatapuram sick

Located at the foothills of Simhachalam and five km from NAD Junction, not many knew about RR Venkatapuram about a year ago. But the village with about 3,500 people grabbed global attention on May 7, 2020, after styrene vapour leaked from LG Polymers, a chemical plant located in the village, killing 11 persons and making hundreds of persons sick.

Almost 10 months have gone by, but the assurances given by the State government to the residents still remain on paper. With the municipal elections ahead, the locals are now questioning about the unfulfilled promises.

One of the main promises the government had given to the villagers is to set up a hospital in the village. As a temporary measure, a small clinic was opened in in a school. The locals allege that though the officials promised to ensure availability of doctors round the clock, the only doctor in the hospital is irregular . “We have been suffering from stomach ache, headache, allergies, skin issues and respiratory issues, but officials not addressed our problems,” they complain.

K. Gopi, a resident of RR Venkatapuram, who lost his father K. Satyanarayana in the incident, said that his family members have been suffering from stomach ache and skin allergies very often. “But the doctor here provides just basic treatment and refers us to King George Hospital (KGH). We are forced to spend expenses for the treatment,” he said.

B. Appalaraju, a resident of Venkatapuram, said that since the LG Polymers incident, he had spent about ₹20,000 as medical expenses for himself and his family members.

It may be noted that the building in which the hospital is being run is actually a government school. Due to the COVID-19 situation and closure of schools, the hospital was run in all the three rooms of the school. After reopening of schools, the hospital was shifted to one small room, where there is space for just one single bed.

When this correspondent visited the hospital, the doctor was unavailable. The staff said that the doctor would be coming soon. When questioned about the number of patients the hospital receives, the staff informed that at least 20 patients approach them daily. “Most of the patients approach us with skin allergy, fevers, stomach aches and other issues,” the staff said. “Moreover, we were promised regular clinical check-up, as per the long-term health monitoring that was recommended both by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that was set up to inquire into the incident,” Mr. Appalaraju said.

Locals from the SC Colony, who were also affected by the incident, said that they fear consuming the groundwater. While many locals purchase water cans, those who cannot afford them consume the water released by the municipality after boiling it.

Kumari, a resident of Venkatapuram, who runs a bakery, said that none of the officials had come to the village and enquired about their living conditions or whether they had any health issues. She said that the government has promised to provide health cards to the villages. But only a book was given, she added.

“After the change in management, no one from the company has visited our village. Despite taking appointment several times, the new management is not giving us a chance to meet them,” said Chinni, a former contract worker of LG Polymers and a resident of Venkatapuram.

Crop loss

The locals also allege that several farmers had lost their crops last year due to the pollution that resulted from the vapour leak.

“After the incident, I had to dump many bags of rice. The paddy crops which were laid was also damaged last year. I had to suffer a loss of more than ₹50,000,” said Mr. Appalaraju.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 7:55:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Visakhapatnam/unfulfilled-promises-make-residents-of-venkatapuram-sick/article33957482.ece

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