Pollution Board asks ports to handle chemicals properly

In fact, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had as early as April asked various cargo handlers including BPT to be particular in handling toxics like chlorine and ammonia which have high chances of leakages.

"As a Central body we had suggested all the ports including the BPT to take precautionary measures so that they don't become new hotspots of disasters," CPCB Chairman S P Gautam said, adding that it is the State PCBs job to ensure that transportation of chemicals in the ports is safely undertaken.

As per "Manufacture, Storage, and Import of Hazardous Chemicals (MSIHC) Rules, 1989" under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, the industries are supposed to give details of hazardous chemical imported by them to the CPCB.

The Board's report emphasised that import of chemicals like ammonia need to be handled safely given that its import has not only increased in the last three consecutive years but also was the highest in terms of quantity.

"As ammonia is very toxic and there are high chances of leakage of ammonia during the operation, it is very essential to have proper supervision during unloading operation," the Board said.

Nearly 103 persons had fallen sick on Wednesday after inhaling chlorine gas leaking from a cylinder stored in Bombay Port Trust (BPT) premises at Sewri suggesting gaps in the safety mechanism which is now being probed.

Underlining the need for adequate safety measures, the CPCB had in its report pointed out that during 2008-09, there was 26.51 per cent increase in the quantity of hazardous chemicals imported compared to the previous year 2007-08.
In 2008-09, 86 hazardous chemicals were imported through 15 sea ports while no chemical was imported via airways.

Among all ports, the maximum quantity of hazardous chemicals - 2.24 lakhs tonnes during 2008-09 - was shipped to Nhava Sheva port in Maharashtra while Chennai port received 54 chemicals which was the minimum.

Authorities of new ports such as Ennore, New Mangalore, Pipivav and ICD Delhi port have also been asked to be vigilant and plan safe handling, storage and transport facilities while others have been asked to workout an emergency preparedness plan according to quantum of import.

Though the response from industries (about import of chemicals) is increasing year by year, the CPCB noted, "This may not be the real picture as many industries might not have informed State Pollution Control Boards/pollution control committees."

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