Skip to main content

Gujarat vulnerable to major manmade chemical disaster, says GSDMA report

By Rajiv Shah 
A top document, just released by the Gujarat government, has raised a major alarm. Sponsored by the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA), and prepared by Mumbai-based engineering consultants, Prestels, in collaboration with international risk management consultants, IEM, USA, the document says, “As one of the most developed and industrialized states in India, Gujarat is home to a high number of hazardous chemical industries”, adding, the data provided by the state government’s Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health suggests that nearly 2,000 industrial units out of about 25,000 working under the factories Act are hazard prone.
Categorising these hazard-prone industrial units, the report says, as many as 380 are vulnerable to major accident hazard (MAH), while 1,019 are Type-A units where chemical quantities handled are below the threshold quantity for MAH units and 758 are Type-B units handle hazardous solvents and highly inflammable liquids. Apart from the MAH, Type-A and Type-B units, there are 1,427 units which pose fire and explosion hazard and 1,730 pose toxic hazard, the report adds.
The situation for Gujarat becomes particularly vulnerable because, the report, titled “Gujarat State Industrial Chemical Disaster Management Plan”, says, in Gujarat, the chemical industry “occupies a preeminent position in the industrial sector of Gujarat, contributing to more than 40% of the industrial output.” It adds, ”Almost the entire range of the chemical process industry exists in Gujarat, including hydrocarbon processing/refining products, petrochemicals-polymers and man-made fibres, fertilizers, health care products, plant protection chemicals, dyes, pigments and intermediates, fine chemicals, surface coating products, salt and salt-based products, ceramics, glass, cement, vegetable oils, fats, and detergents.”
Calling it a major manmade hazard which exists over and above natural hazards such as cyclones, earthquakes, flooding, tsunamis, and storm surges, the report says, “A stretch of 400 kilometres from Ahmedabad to Vapi is known as the Golden Corridor. In the Bharuch district, Ankleshwar, situated on the Narmada estuary, is Asia’s largest chemical zone. To support the rapid development of the textile industry in the state post-independence, a large integrated chemical complex came up at Atul in Valsad district. The discovery of oil and gas in Ankleshwar and the surrounding areas led to the building of Gujarat Refinery Ltd, and the downstream units in the form of petrochemical complex (IPCL) and fertilizer complex (GSFC) at Vadodara.”
Then, “major hydrocarbon complexes are located in Vadodara, Bharuch, Surat, and Jamnagar districts. The caustic/chlorine manufacturing plants are located in Mithapur, Veraval, Surendranagar, Vadodara, Dahej, Jhagadia, and Atul. Toxic chemicals such as cyanides are produced in GACL Baroda, Cyanides & Chemicals at Olpad (Surat District). The refinery and the petrochemical complex triggered the development of small and medium scale chemical industries for the production of chemicals first in Nandesari, followed by Vapi, Vatva, Ankleshwar, and other places.”
The report states, “These include Gujarat Refinery, Indian Petrochemicals Ltd. and Gujarat State Fertilizer Co. along with several downstream units in the Jawaharnagar (Koyali) petrochemical complex area; fertilizer plants at Vadodara, Hazira, Bharuch, Kalol, and Kandla; and petrochemical complexes at Vadodara, Dahej, Hazira, and Jamnagar. The caustic/chlorine manufacturing plants are located in Mithapur, Veraval, Surendranagar, Vadodara, Dahej, Jhagadia, and Atul. Toxic chemicals such as cyanides are produced in GACL Baroda, Cyanides & Chemicals at Olpad (Surat District). The refinery and the petrochemical complex triggered the development of small and medium scale chemical industries for the production of chemicals first in Nandesari, followed by Vapi, Vatva, Ankleshwar, and other places.”
In addition to all this, “the state has a Chemical Port Terminal at Dahej. Kandla Port Trust imports and handles the majority of petrochemical products in India. Additionally, two ports in the private sector located in Mundra and Pipavav, handle major petrochemical products. It is expected that port-based mega-chemical industrial estates would be further developed. In addition to the manufacturing industries, there is significant infrastructure for handling chemicals such as pipelines, transportation (rail and road), and isolated storages”, the report says.
It further says, “A cross-country 2,300 km Hazira-Bijapur-Jagdishpur (HBJ) gas pipeline originates from Hazira. A hydrocarbon supply pipeline runs from Kandla to Bhatinda (Punjab). A pipeline network of more than 17,000 km is present in the state. Major LNG terminals are proposed at Pipavav, Dahej and Hazira. The crude oil carrying pipelines are also proposed. Railways, state highways and national highways running through the state carry chemical cargo that originates in or transits through the state. There are several isolated storages mainly at Vadodara, Kheda, Sanand, Bavla, Rajkot, and Bhavnagar.“
It adds, “Major LNG terminals are proposed at Pipavav, Dahej and Hazira, which would necessitate laying of long cross-country pipelines for carrying natural gas. The crude oil carrying pipelines include Salaya-Mathura, Viramgam- Vadodara, and those proposed from Mundra to Punjab State. The petroleum products carrying pipelines include Vadodara-Sabarmati, Kandla-Bhatinda and Jamnagar- Kandla (off-shore). Railways, state highways and national highways running through the state carry chemical cargo that originates in or transits through the state.”
Then there are a total of 183 Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) estates, out of which 13 estates as chemical zones – in Ankleshwar, Dahej, Jhagadia and Panoli (in Bharuch district), Nandesari, Sachin, Petrochemical Complex and Ranoli (in Vadodara district), Naroda, Odhav and Vatva (in Ahmedabad district), Sachin (in Surat district), and Sarigam and Vapi in Valsad district. These estates make Ahmedabad, Bharuch, Vadodara, Valsad and Surat, apart from Kutch, more vulnerable to chemical hazards than other districts. “These districts except Kutch are situated along a north-south alignment, and it is therefore prudent to develop local and regional response capabilities in this geographical region as a priority before other regions”, the report stresses.
Besides, the report states, what would make Gujarat even more vulnerable is if chemical or industrial disaster occurs “as an aftermath of a natural disaster”. For example, Kandla cyclone of 1998 affected oil terminals, jetties, transportation facilities, factories, buildings, warehouses, and storage tanks. There have been reports of chemical spill in Kandla port in the wake of January 26 earthquake in 2001.” Basing their analysis of “vulnerability assessment for MAH, Type-A and Type-B chemical units in the state as per the best available data”, the consultants say, “The proximity to international borders also makes chemical terrorism a possible source of chemical disasters in the state.”
Identifying the type of disasters that are associated with these hazardous units, the report states, the areas are vulnerable to “chemical emergencies are fires, explosions, and toxic releases that affect the population and environment”. It adds, “Additional hazards include chemical spillage or spill over. Chemical corrosion too can cause damage to property and sometimes life. Chemical emergency or disaster can involve one or more of these hazards as described below.”
Dots show major chemical hotspots

Pointing out that “fires occur in industry more frequently than explosions and toxic releases”, the report says, “However, the consequences in terms of loss of life are generally less because a fire allows some time for people to escape and physical protection against it may be available. The effects of a fire on people usually take the form of skin burns due to exposure to thermal radiation. The severity of burns depends on the duration of exposure and the intensity of the heat. Heat radiation is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source.”
Chemical disasters: The report refers to the type of fire that is possible in chemical industries, saying, “Jet fires occur when a flammable liquid or gas is ignited after its release from a pressurized, punctured vessel or pipe. The pressure of release generates a long flame, which is stable under most conditions. Typically, jet fires have a length less than 50 meters and thus typically stay confined onsite. However, if this jet impinges on a neighbouring tank then that tank ruptures under heat stress. Therefore, it is important to control jet fires to avoid domino effects.”
Then, there is pool fire which “occurs on ignition of an accumulation of liquid as a pool on the ground or on water or another liquid. Pool fire diameters are usually confined to the dyke area of the tank or tank farms. Pool fires can give rise to heat stress under certain conditions. Pool fires in large tank farms can result in a major disaster by a cascading / domino effect.” Pointing towards what may happen in Gujarat, the report draws a parallel with the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) Jaipur fire of 2009, calling it “an example of a pool fire.”
There is flash fire which “occurs when a cloud of flammable gas and air is ignited. Usually, flash fire or vapour cloud explosion results depending upon the spread of flame post ignition and environmental conditions. In reality, it is difficult to predict whether a flash fire will happen. In a flash fire, within a few second of ignition the flame spreads both upwind and downwind of the ignition source. The duration of this fire is very short, but it can give rise to secondary fires that may take longer to control. A capable fire department should be able to respond to such secondary fires (these are not chemical emergencies but a domino effect).”
Fireballs may occur as “rapid turbulent combustion of fuel, usually in the form of a rising and expanding radiant ball of flame. When a jet fire or pool fire impinges on a vessel containing pressure-liquefied gas, the pressure in the vessel rises and the vessel wall weakens ultimately resulting in catastrophic failure of the vessel. This phenomenon is known as a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapour Explosion (BLEVE). Although the duration of the heat pulse from a fireball is typically less than 30 seconds, the damage potential is high due to the fireball’s massive surface thermal radiation emissive power. A fireball can also be expected to cause significant overpressures (blast).”
The report states, “Explosions are caused when a mixture of air and fuel gets ignited. Depending upon the characteristics of the explosive vapour, the ignition may also result in a flash fire. The Vapour Cloud Explosion (VCE) can be unconfined or confined. Confined explosions occur within some form of containment (e.g. vessels, pipe work), or in less obvious situations (e.g. between buildings), while unconfined explosions can occur in open air.”
The report warns, “Probably the greatest danger arises from the sudden massive release of flammable material producing a large cloud of flammable and possibly explosive vapour. If this cloud were ignited, the effects would depend on a number of factors including wind speed and the degree of dilution of the cloud with air. It could lead to large number of casualties and damage both onsite and beyond. However, the effects are generally limited to less than 300-400 meters.”
Toxic disaster: Coming to the possibility of toxic disasters, the report states, “Continuous or sudden releases of toxic vapours have the potential to cause death and severe injuries at a much greater distance. In theory, such a release could produce lethal concentrations at several kilometres from the point of release. In practice, the actual number of casualties depends on the meteorological conditions, density of population in the path of the cloud, and the effectiveness of the emergency arrangements. Toxic materials can also be carried considerable distances by water.”
It underlines, “Their release into the public sewerage system, rivers, canals and other water courses, either directly, or through contaminated water used in fire fighting, can result in serious threats to public health. While fire and explosion hazards can be controlled and responded by basic (but capable) fire resource capability. However, response to toxic leaks needs specialist training, equipment, and procedures.”
Environmental impact: Coming to “possible environmental consequences of a chemical emergency include”, the report says these could be:
• The release into the atmosphere of toxic or corrosive gases, aerosols or particulate materials which could ultimately harm the aerial, terrestrial or aquatic environments
• The release of liquids or solids which could adversely affect land or water courses and the flora and fauna therein
• Fires or explosions causing damage to buildings or natural environment
• The effects of environmental impact can be direct or indirect, immediate or delayed, temporary or persistent. The persistent effects are of particular importance, such as damage caused to habitats by fire.
Medical consequence: As for medical consequences or chemical explosion, the report states, “Human exposure to chemical releases can occur through air, food and drink, water or direct dermal contact with the chemical. Epidemiologists need to be aware that apparently inexplicable disease outbreaks may be the first evidence of a toxic release into the community. Chemical-induced disorders can manifest themselves in any organ system. Because the body has only a limited repertoire of disease responses, the signs and symptoms may resemble diseases arising from other causes.”
The report points towards the possibility of following adverse responses to toxic exposures:
1. Effects that are local or arise at the site of contact with the chemical, such as broncho-constriction from respiratory irritants or irritation of the skin and eyes by irritant gases
2. Effects that are systemic or affect organ systems remote from the site of absorption, such as depression of the central nervous system from the absorption of solvents through the skin, or necrosis of the liver from the inhalation of carbon tetrachloride
3. Effects on mental health arising from real or perceived releases, which depend on the psychological stress associated with an incident. The timing of the adverse health effects after exposure may vary. Acute effects appear within seconds or minutes, and include eye irritation, broncho-constriction or pulmonary oedema Sub-chronic effects appear within hours or days, and include delayed pulmonary oedema from phosgene, or renal failure in arsenic poisoning Chronic effects appear weeks to years after exposure. These may be of the greatest concern in an incident, even in the absence of any casualties with acute or sub-chronic effects, and may include cancer and reproductive abnormalities.
The report further warns, “Gujarat has been struck by natural disasters frequently in the recent past. These disasters have impacted industries considerably.” It enumerates them:
• The Kandla cyclone of 1998 affected oil terminals, jetties, transportation facilities, factories, buildings, warehouses, storage tanks, timber industry and, most important, the salt industry.
• There have been reports of chemical spill in Kandla port in the wake of January 26 earthquake in 2001.
• Oil production also suffered since the Hindustan Petroleum shifted its operations from Vizag to Kandla after the event of fire.
The report states, “The impact of these natural disasters could trigger a serious chemical accident in Gujarat, particularly in the port-based industries in coastal area that are vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis and flooding.” In this circumstance, the report stresses on the need to “consider resilience against natural disasters while locating and designing the new chemical industry. For existing chemical industries, a retrofitting of infrastructure to remain safe in case of earthquakes and flooding should be prioritized by the industry.”

Comments

TRENDING

Mental health: We talk of poverty figures, but not increase in suicides since 2014

By IMPRI Team Highlighting  the issue of mental health and addressing the challenges involved, # IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a panel discussion on Institutional Support for Mental Health and Wellbeing under the #WebPolicyTalk series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps . The discussion was chaired by Prof Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Professor, IMPRI and Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai . The distinguished panel included – Prof Anuradha Sovani, Former Professor and Head, Department of Psychology, and Former Dean, Faculty of Humanities at SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai and National Core Committee member and Ethics Committee Chairperson, Association of Adolescent and Child Care India ; Dr Soumitra Pathare, Director, Centre for Mental Health Law & Policy at Indian Law Society, Pune ; Dr Swati Rane, Founder CEO at SevaShakti Healthcare Consultancy, Mumbai and Founder V

How India, Bangladesh perceive, manage Sunderbans amidst climate change

By IMRPI Team The effects of climate change have been evident, and there have been a lot of debates around the changes to be made locally to help and save the earth. In this light, the nations met at the COP 26 conference recently. To discuss this further, the Center for Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development (CECCSD) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi , organized a panel discussion on “COP 26 and Locally Led Adaptations in India and Bangladesh Sunderbans” under the #WebPolicyTalk series- The State of the Environment – #PlanetTalks . The talk was chaired by Dr Jayanta Basu, Director, Non-profit EnGIO, Faculty at Calcutta University and an Environmental Journalist, The Telegraph , ABP . The Moderator of the event, Dr Simi Mehta, CEO and Editorial Director, IMPRI , started the discussion by stressing the talk on the living conditions of people living in the Sunderbans Delta from both the countries, i.e. India and Bangladesh. According to the report

NEP: Education must shift away from knowledge, move to teaching students

Dr Anjusha Gawande* The Education sector in the globe is changing dramatically. Many manual jobs may be captured over by machines as a consequence of multiple spectacular advances in science and technology, including the machine learning, and artificial intelligence. A professional workforce, particularly one that includes mathematics, computer science, and data science, as well as multidisciplinary competencies in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, will be in incredibly popular. As a result, education must shift away from knowledge and toward teaching students, how to be creative and transdisciplinary, and how to innovate, adapt, and process information differently in innovative and rapidly changing sectors. The education development agenda at the global level is represented in Goal 4 (SDG4) of India's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted in 2015. Ministry of Education has announced the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) on 29.07.2020. In J

Dishonesty, corruption, manipulation and sustainable growth of mediocrity

By Arup Mitra* The theory of mediocrity would suggest that the meritorious who are always small in number as a nature’s gift will be dominated by a vast number of mediocre as the latter cannot withstand the inferiority they suffer from. By subjugating the merit, they derive a pleasure of having established their superiority. Such processes are functional in all spheres in life though the field of art is the worst sufferer. An artist mind is most sensitive and those who are meritorious in this lot possess exceptionally different traits. This makes them more vulnerable and, on the other hand, it paves the path of the mediocre to cast their shadows all around. Unjust and strong criticisms are sufficient to detract many. In developing countries, the modes of subjugation are many. Individuals do not hesitate to take recourse to criminal means as the subconscious prevalent with vengeance, accesses easily the outlets for execution. The lack of civility and the power of money form a unique com

Migrant problem during Covid and the role of equality for cohesive development

By IMPRI Team  The covid-19 pandemic has deepened the pre-existing inequalities across socio-economic groups, the distressing images of migrants’ exposure remained attached in our minds but not a lot has changed in terms of data collection and policy making since then to understand the role of equality for cohesive development. Cohesive development also means that human beings should respect the boundaries of nature which they cross at their own peril and the peril of other living beings on earth. In lieu to this, The State of Development Discourses – #CohesiveDevelopment, #IMPRI Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD) , #IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute , New Delhi organized #WebPolicyTalk with Prof Amiya Kumar Bagchi, on The Role of Equality for Cohesive Development. The session is inaugurated by Ms Mahima Kapoor, researcher and assistant editor at IMPRI. Ms Mahima Kapoor extended her gratitude to the speaker, moderator and the discussant. The moderator for the eve

Parallel govts: How unity of various streams of freedom movements took shape in India

By Bharat Dogra  In one of the most inspiring examples of highly courageous spontaneous actions based on the unity of people, parallel governments were formed by freedom fighters in several parts of India in the course of the Quit India Movement in 1942. Although generally four such leading efforts have been identified in Satara (Maharashtra), Talcher (Odisha), Tamluk (West Bengal) and Ballia (Uttar Pradesh), there were some other smaller efforts as well such as those in Bhagalpur (Bihar) and Gurpal (Balasore, Odisha). It is very interesting to see in most of these efforts (also very significant for understanding the freedom movement) that there was constant merging of the various streams of the freedom movement, with more militant activities openly taking place with the help of quickly mobilized militias and this being combined with various constructive programs emphasized by Mahatma Gandhi such as anti-liquor efforts and anti-untouchability movements. In addition we see actions in

West Bengal police inaction in immoral trafficking case of a Muslim woman

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) writes to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, on Muslim woman victim trafficking, police inaction, and need immediate rescue: I am writing to inform you about a case of illegal trafficking and profuse police inaction regarding the same of a marginalized Muslim teenager named Anima Khatun (name changed), daughter of Mr. Osman Ali. The victim and her husband had been residents of the village Daribas, under Dinhata police station Cooch Behar district since their marriage in 2014. Six months following their marriage, Anima Khatun along with her husband, sister-in-law, sister-in-law's husband as well as her in-laws shifted to Delhi in search of work. They stayed there for 2 years after which they all came back to their native village. They stayed at their native residence for about one month and then they went back to Delhi. In Delhi, Anima was in touch with her family till the next six months, after which t

Impact of climate change on Gujarat pastoralists' traditional livelihood

By Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, Karen Pinerio* We are sharing a study[1] based learning on climate resilience and adaptation strategies of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat. There are two objectives of the study: (i) to examine the impact of climate on traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Gujarat state; and (ii) to explore and document the adaptation strategies of pastoralists in mitigating climate adversities, with a focus on the role of women in it. In order to meet these objectives, the research inquiries focused on how pastoralists perceive climate change, how climate change has impacted their traditional livelihood, i.e., pastoralism in drylands (Kr├Ątli 2015), and how these pastoral families have evolved adaptation strategies that address climate change (CC)/ variabilities, i.e., traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat state. Pastoralism is more than 5,000 years old land-use strategy in India; it is practised by nomadic (their entire livelihood r

Bangladesh sets shining example of communal peace, harmony in South Asia

By Dr. Abantika Kumari Bangladesh is made up of 160 million people who are multi-religious, multi-ethnic, and multi-lingual. The Constitution of Bangladesh guarantees all citizens the freedom to freely and peacefully practice their chosen religions. Religious minorities make up roughly 12% of Bangladesh's present population, according to conservative estimates . Hindus account for 10% of the population, Buddhists for 1%, Christians at 0.50 percent, and ethnic minorities for less than 1%. As an example of how people of different religions can live together, cooperate together, and simply be together, Bangladesh is regarded. Bangladesh is a country that values religious liberty, harmony, and tolerance. Bangladesh's population is made up of a diverse spectrum of religious groupings and ethnic groups. Such communities and groups live in harmony, putting aside their differences and learning to embrace and respect the diverse and diversified culture that has contributed to Bangladesh

Political leaders' actions are causing decontextualisation of democracy

By Harasankar Adhikari In India, does democracy become a matter of prescription, i.e., to follow the footpath left? Isn't it, in some ways, the adoption of certain prescribed procedures and mechanisms, such as timely election and populist schemes for the poor, etc.? In some cases, acts of government and governance turn democracy into a myth. It is full of political party-based agendas. This continuous hegemonic practise creates a conditional situation for the people of India. People elect their representatives who are not their representatives. They are only representatives of a particular political party that nominated them in the election. Democratic decentralisation of power is undoubtedly a unique step towards the grass roots. But a Panchayat member has no free will to act without the party’s instruction and approval. Michael Saward, a political philosopher, defines democracy as a matter of correspondence in state-society relationships. But India’s parliamentary democracy is un