Skip to main content

Official report finds huge gaps in dealing with chemical disasters in Gujarat

By Rajiv Shah 
The Gujarat government’s just-released high-level report, “Gujarat State Chemical Disaster Management Plan (CDMP)”, has said that while formation of new rules and regulations as also enactment of new laws is important to fight chemical disasters, a more serious and immediate concern is regarding existence of what it calls a “serious gap” in enforcing existing rules and regulations to fight them. The problem has arisen particularly because, says the report, “currently, no single agency or department is made responsible for coordinated response for chemical emergency. In practice, the collector is expected to fulfill the role of coordinating response.”
Pointing out that “the international best practices are to have a single agency responsible for coordinating response of multiple response agencies during disasters, ensuring that individual response agencies are prepared to required level, and develop integrated response capability for the state”, it wants the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) to do role as a “response coordinating” agency. It underlines, “Such single emergency response office /agency is advised not only for chemical emergencies but for all hazards.”
Recommending the establishment of a chemical cell within the GSDMA, the report suggests, it should be based on international model approaches and International Labour Organisation (ILO) guidelines, and should be “helpful in preparing guidelines and procedures for the inspection, enforcement, and legal compliance by the industry, and serve as a key knowledge resource in planning for and responding to chemical emergencies.” It adds, “This cell can advise the training courses for its staff on chemical emergency management and monitor the training effectiveness. This cell can even itself conduct internal training of regional and field staff on special chemical emergencies related topics not covered in a formal training institute.”
The report simultaneously recommends that the Directorate of Industrial Safety and Health (DISH) and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) with the support of GSDMA should develop guidelines for the industry to report chemical leaks on basis of “quantity leaked” without waiting for the emergency to become offsite. It says, “Incidents should be reported even when they threaten environment and ecology, pointing to the type of leaks that should be reported: (i) A release of any hazardous chemical or petroleum product (in any amount) to water bodies (lake, rivers, dams, canal, sea, creek, etc.) within the state of Gujarat, and (ii) a release of any hazardous chemical or petroleum product, in a quantity of 95 litres or more, to the surface of the land (whether or not there is evaporation or fire).
At the same time, the report insists, “A state-level survey has to be done to obtain information on resource infrastructure (contact, equipment, location, etc.), critical or sensitive installations (schools, government offices, etc.), routes (chemical transportation routes, evaluation, road traffic/ condition information), and industry specific information (chemicals, location, quantity). This information must be available in interactive GIS format. The GIS database is not a one-time activity but need to be updated and maintained regularly. The most effective strategy to ensure this is that the local authorities, response agencies, and the industry are entrusted with regular updating of information.”
Referring to the poor state of fire safety in Gujarat because of lack of any central regulatory authority, the report states, “Our assessment of fire stations identifies that fire departments in larger municipal corporations such as Ahmedabad and Surat are comparatively well equipped, staffed, and trained, but all lacked sufficient trained man power and equipment as discussed in the gap analysis report and response mechanism report. Because the fire departments are attached to the municipalities, we also find lack of standardization in procedures related to staffing, training, equipment, and response between different fire departments.”
Dishing out figures, the report underlines, “Currently, only 35% of the required number of fire stations is available in the state. In addition to lack of adequate number of fire stations, even the existing fire stations have limited manpower, equipment, vehicles and training. For example, currently Gujarat has manpower of 1,447 people which is only 7.5% of the required strength of 19,222; the requirement will be higher if new fire stations are built.”

Pointing out that it is “important to build capacity of fire fighting and emergency service in Gujarat as a precursor to having chemical emergency response capability of international standard”, the report says, “At present, fire services can deal with normal fires, and their knowledge base has yet to be upgraded with an understanding and capability to handle the various types of chemical fires. A comprehensive training programme for fire department personnel is needed including but not limited to the following: Basic awareness of chemical emergency response (toxic, explosion, and fire hazards), personal decontamination and mass decontamination, coordinated response with police, search and rescue in chemical emergencies, preservation of evidence for criminal investigation, and first aid.”
In fact, the report underlines, there should basic fire structural (coat and trousers) or work uniform, a hard hat, chemical work gloves, safety glasses, safety shoes/boots, and a personal alert safety system (PASS) device, basic liquid splash and minimum respiratory protection for known chemical hazards includes, chemical specific protective coverall or two-piece suit, chemical gloves, safety glasses, safety boots, and an air-purifying respirator (APR) with appropriate cartridge or self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). nitrile gloves both outer and inner, neoprene and butyl rubber outer gloves, chemical resistant boots and chemical resistant booties, first aid kit monitoring equipment, electronic pulse and blood oxygen monitor, oral digital temperature thermometer, basic four gas monitor – includes cartridges for oxygen (O2), carbon monoxide (CO), Lower Explosive Limit (LEL), and choice of common toxic gas like hydrogen sulphide (H2S), sulphur dioxide (SO2), or chlorine (Cl2), and so on.
The report underlines that the need to form a special state emergency response team (SERT), which should be the most advanced hazardous chemical response team. “The key safety concern for this team is to be able to identify when an event exceeds their capacity and seek external (national/ international) support as needed.” SERT, it says, “would be primarily responsible for responding to high-risk, high-volume, and thus, less frequent incidents that surpass capacity of local or regional response agencies”. Local and regional response teams should be trained sufficiently to:
• Recognize events that may surpass local capacity to respond
• Rapidly collect information needed to define the situation and organize the appropriate response resources
• Support local incident command functions as the incident escalates.
Pointing out that a specialist regional response team (RRT) for chemical emergencies should be established from a core of the most capable local fire departments, the report states, “It will be a state level asset that can be officially mobilized for fail-proof and speedier communication. It will respond to the higher-toxicity, higher-volume chemical release incidents, releases of unknown chemicals, and complex or long duration events that require more resources than local teams are able to support. The regional response team will not replace but will augment local response capacity, and will be trained to identify events that necessitate the request for state-level (e.g., SERT) or national-level resources (e.g., NDRF).”
Then, there would be local emergency response teams (LERTs) for district or block levels, the report states, adding, “There should be at least one LERT in an industrial pocket area. LERT may draw from the local fire department and other public agencies that can provide on-scene response. LERT can include members of the industry, provided these ‘private’ resources are officially and bindingly committed and involved in planning, practice, and training. LERT should be well trained and well equipped to deal with small scale and frequent local emergencies (90% of chemical incidents).”
Finding yet another “critical gap” in fighting chemical disasters in Gujarat, the report states, this is regarding lack of “mutual aid between industries”. It says, the small industries are particularly hard-pressed as they do not have their own resources to respond to chemical emergencies. “The primary reason for this is that large industries in the mutual aid seek commensurate level of reciprocity from other member industries. Large industries do provide help to smaller units on request from them or district authorities, but as a benefactor and not under a formal or binding agreement. Considering this, we recommend a replication of Disaster Prevention and Management Centre (DPMC) model, as it exists in Ankaleshwar, for other industries’ pockets in Gujarat to serve smaller industries. “DPMC can also serve larger units in addition to mutual aid assistance from other large industries”, the report says.
Other recommendations of the report include having a structure for mock drills at local, district and state levels; Chemical Emergency Community Awareness and Preparedness (CECAP) and Chemical Emergency Community Awareness and Preparedness (CECAP) Outreach programmes to tailor to each community’s needs; Quick Reaction Medical Teams (QRMTs) to reach the accident site immediately along with resuscitation, protection, detection, and decontamination equipment and materials; a special Toxic Risk Reduction Programme, which should be “tailored to identify priority toxic chemicals in fixed industrial installations; and a special land use policy for buffer zone around major accident hazard (MAH) installations (handling/ storing extremely/ highly toxic chemicals).
Recommending a major policy change by having a buffer zone around MAH units, the report states, “Under the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guidelines and also under industrial policy these installations are permitted to be set up only 25 kilometres away from major population hubs (five lakh) in case of environmental guidelines and (10 lakh) in case of industrial policy guidelines. It is necessary to have in place a mandatory mechanism by which the concerned authorities are able to regulate the development of population settlements in the proximity of the installations.”
The report recommends, “A no-population buffer zone of 500 meters around the perimeter of the MAH installations is to be set up for future installations. There should be a specific provision in the central legislation on land use planning requiring the concerned authorities in the (centre or state as the case may be ) to maintain a no population buffer zone of approximately a 500 meter width around the perimeter of an MAH installation. After the provision suggested above is made in the land use planning legislation, the necessary amendment shall be made in the rules and the environmental impact assessment notification 2006 to give necessary effect for implementation.”
The report adds, “The time to provide effective response to chemical emergencies is a key determination for buffer zone dimensions. For example, even with rapid and qualified response, population within a certain zone cannot be protected. On other hand, without a qualified response, a buffer zone of 500 meter may not be adequate. Therefore, the land use planning and permissions for new infrastructure development should consider existing hazards and vulnerability to them… Additionally, the environment department and the GPCB may consider chemical vulnerability assessment as a part of chapter on disaster management in the environmental impact assessment report as a key decision factor to permit new 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