18-days into the Visakhapatnam gas tragedy which claimed 12 lives and affected hundreds of others on May 7, startling revelations have now put LG Polymers in the dock. According to a report by India Today, the firm operated in increased capacity for almost two years without all environmental clearances.
It says that the files for clearances were sent to the centre almost 8 months after the company was told that the operations were a violation. LG Polymer was warned over toxic styrene levels and now the Green ministry has raised red flags on the “delay” by the Andhra Government in tackling the issue.
The India Today report says that LG Polymers had in fact in a affidavit filed in 2019, admitted of violating the environmental guidelines and had said that it would not repeat such a mistake in future. This the firm had said in response to a letter sent to them by the Andhra Pradesh pollution control board when it had applied for permission to expand its capacity from 415 tonnes per day (TPD) to 655 TPD on its existing site of 213 acres.
Andhra Pradesh High Court directed that LG Polymers premises would remain completely seized
In yet another development, the Andhra Pradesh High Court today ordered that the premises of LG Polymers be seized in the case relating to gas leakage from the plant. The court, in interim orders, directed that no one including the Directors of the company be allowed to enter the premises.
Moreover, the court barred the company directors from leaving the country without its permission, while ordering authorities not to release their surrendered passports.
Taking serious note of the transportation of styrene monomer from the plant to South Korea, the court wanted a reply on the net worth of LG Polymers Pvt Ltd in the next hearing slated on May 28.
NGT imposed Rs 50 crore fine on LG Polymer for not complying with rules
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday imposed an interim fine of Rs 50 crore on the LG Polymer. Styrene monomer stored in a tank in the polystyrene manufacturing plant had evaporated and escaped out of the tank after the refrigeration unit attached to had failed during the lockdown period.
The tribunal also sought response from the Centre and state authorities while noting that the incident appeared to be a result of “failure to comply” with rules and other statutory provisions.
LG Polymers’ plant violated green rules: Environment Ministry
After conducting a preliminary investigation in Thursday’s gas leak, the environment ministry on Friday said that the LG Polymers’ plant in Vishakhapatnam violated green rules as far as its functioning under expanded capacity is concerned.
“The company had applied for post-facto approval of its operation under expanded capacity. Since the clearance is pending, the operation of the plant is certainly a violation,” said a senior ministry official. The application was forwarded to the ministry by the Andhra Pradesh Environment Impact Assessment Authority on March 17.
According to the ministry, the LG Polymers India had applied for permission to expand its capacity from 415 tonnes per day (TPD) to 655 TPD on its existing site of 213 acres.
Meanwhile, the ministry is finalising guidelines for all industrial units in the country to ensure safety while resuming operations during lockdown 3.0 or post-lockdown period. Since many companies resumed their operations after May 3, such guidelines would help them in a smooth transition.
LG Polymers gas leak incident
A major chemical leak from the LG polymer plant near Visakhapatnam impacted villages in a five-km radius, leaving many people dead and several other citizens suffering from breathlessness and other problems. The leak was noticed by company staff who were reportedly inspecting machines to restart the factory and raised an alarm.
Hours after the styrene gas leak around 2:30 am on May 7 (Thursday) from the multinational LG Polymers Plant at RR Venkatapuram village, people were seen lying unconscious on sidewalks, near ditches and on the road, raising fears of a major industrial disaster. 12 people have lost their lives and more than 200 have been admitted to the hospitals following the leak of styrene gas from the facility.