APPCB draws flak for ‘misleading’ press note

Regulator failed to do its job properly, allege activists

May 12, 2020 11:23 pm | Updated May 13, 2020 03:57 am IST - VISAKHAPATNAM


The Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board (APPCB) has come under fire from several quarters over a ‘misleading’ press note that it had issued in the wake of the gas leak at LG Polymers .

Also read:Visakhapatnam gas leak | IAF airlifts 8.3 tonnes of chemicals

A group of scientists and social activists criticised the APPCB over the stand that it took on granting clearances to various industries, including LG Polymers.

Also read:Toxic disaster: On Visakhapatnam gas leak

‘Denial of responsibility’

An outfit called Scientists for People said it was shocked to see the contents of the press release issued by the Regional Office of the APPCB in Visakhapatnam. “It is more in the tone of excuses reeled out by a student for not doing his homework. It is denial of responsibility vested in them to protect the environment and people,” the organisation said.

Former Union secretary E.A.S. Sarma said the APPCB tried to absolve itself of any involvement in industrial units obtaining Environment Clearance (EC) under the Environment (Protection) Act, by saying that ECs for Category-A projects are issued by the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests and ECs for Category-B projects by the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC)/State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).

“APPCB should not have suppressed the fact that it acts as the Member-Secretary of SEAC and supports both SEAC and SEIAA,” Mr. Sarma said.

“Consent for Establishment (CFE) and Consent for Operation (CFO) cannot be given to a unit without an Environmental Clearance (EC). The consents handed out by the APPCB to LG Polymers are illegal. It is an imprudent attempt by the PCB to absolve itself of any responsibility for the disaster,” said V.S. Krishna of Human Rights Forum.

It should be made clear to the public that the APPCB’s Consent for Establishment and Consent for Operation approvals were not standalone clearances, totally unrelated to the conditions stipulated in the statutory EC. APPCB could not issue CFE/CFO and allow any industrial unit to operate without a valid EC. The conditions laid down in CFE/CFO could not be out of tune with those in the EC,” Mr. Sarma stated.

The signatories to the statement by the Forum for Scientists included K. Babu Rao, K. Venkat Reddy, Ahmed Khan, D. Rambabu, A. Srinivasa Rao, A.V. Rao, M. Bapuji, B.V. Reddi, B.S. Acharya, C.R. Panda, K.B.S. Saibabu, J.N. Mohanty, M. Adinarayana, B.N. Reddy and K. Krishna Kumari.

The scientists questioned as to how APPCB and its experts evaluated the plant before giving its consent. “Consent order does not show any process emissions while the international data presents considerable VOC (volatile organic compounds) emissions from the plant. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the total process emissions that qualify as air pollutants are in the range of 0.6 – 2.5 gm/kg product,” they said.

The scientists said that nearly a tonne of styrene and other organics must be getting released every day during normal operations, but the consent order does not show that. They alleged that APPCB had failed to properly evaluate the process and fix norms for air emissions from the plant. Moreover, they were supposed to obtain risk assessment and disaster management plan reports from all red category industries and evaluate them.

“If APPCB had done its job properly, the risk assessment should have alerted everyone on the accidental release of styrene and provided for stipulating conditions in the consent orders to prevent such a possibility,” the scientists said.

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