The digester, containing litres of residual liquid waste during sugar production, exploded due to suspected pressure buildup. No deaths have been reported.

Digester at sugar mill in Ktakas Mandya explodes Crops acres of farmland destroyed
news Environment Thursday, November 22, 2018 - 13:10

A worker was injured and over a hundred acres of farmlands were affected after a digester exploded at NLS Sugars, a private sugar mill at Koppa in Mandya district on Wednesday. According to police officials at Koppa, the digester exploded due to suspected pressure build-up.

The digester, containing several lakh litres of distillery spent wash (an unwanted residual liquid waste generated during sugar production), exploded with a loud sound, sending debris flying and leading to the collapse of a compound wall nearby. Hazardous residual liquid gushed out and entered the paddy fields in and around the mill.

“The residual liquid or spent wash has spread to the fields around the NLS sugar mill. Agriculture and environment officials in the district estimate that the crops in a 150-acre area around the mill have been damaged and the soil cannot be used for cultivation for at least three years," said Rajesh MR, Mandya Assistant Commissioner, who visited the spot on Wednesday. 

The police and Revenue and Labour department officials also visited the sugar mill on Wednesday and carried out inspections. 

Officials are also investigating whether the digester was damaged before the explosion and whether there was negligence on the part of NLS Sugars in replacing the unit. Officials from the Department of Factories and Boilers will conduct an investigation into the status of the digester and the circumstances that led to the explosion.

There were very few workers at the mill when the incident occurred. One worker, Anand, was knocked unconscious following the incident and was rushed to a private hospital in Mysuru. Anand developed respiratory problems due to the strong smell that emanated following the explosion.

District officials are scrambling to ensure that the release of the hazardous liquid has not affected the water at the Shimsha river, which is downstream of the sugar mill. "We are testing water samples from the river at the Thaggahalli dam. We have lifted concentrated water from there and are making sure that the water in the river is not affected. As a precautionary measure, we are asking people to not use the water from the river directly for some time,” Rajesh told TNM.

Farmers stage protest

The smell and the subsequent pollution of waterbodies have left farmers and residents near the mill in the lurch. "There is a strong smell lurking in the air and the discharge has damaged the sugarcane, ragi and paddy fields, making it uncultivable. We are facing problems finding usable water since we think even water from the borewell has been affected. We have raised these issues about the mill in the past with the environmental officials but have not received responses,” said Umesh, a farmer leader from Koppa.

Members of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha staged a protest outside the mill demanding compensation for the crop loss suffered.

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