South Korean company LG Polymers India has absolute liability for the loss of life and public health in the gas leak incident at its plant in Visakhapatnam, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has said while directing that the interim penalty of Rs 50 crore would be spent on compensation to the victims and the restoration of environment.
The National Green Tribunal directed that a restoration plan should be prepared by a Committee comprising two representatives each of the Environment Ministry and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and three representatives of Andhra Pradesh government.
The NGT also junked the company's plea seeking review of its May 8 order slapping a Rs 50 crore interim penalty on it, saying that it is justified in taking suo motu cognisance of the matter.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said that the final calculation of compensation may be assessed by a committee comprising representatives of Ministry of Environment Ministry, CPCB and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute.
"The committee will be at liberty to associate/co-opt any other expert institution or individual. The Secretary, MoEF may ensure constitution of such committee within two weeks... The Committee may give its report within two months thereafter," the bench, also comprising Justice Sheo Kumar Singh, said.
It also directed Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary to identify and take appropriate action against persons responsible for failure of law in permitting the company to operate without statutory clearances within two months and give a report.
"In view of the stand of the state pollution control board and the company that it will not recommence its operation without requisite statutory clearances, we direct that if any such statutory clearances are granted and the Company proposes to recommence, this aspect must be brought to the notice of this tribunal so that compliance of law is ensured," the bench said in its June 1 order uploaded online on Wednesday.
The NGT asked MoEF to constitute an Expert Committee to suggest ways and means to revamp monitoring mechanism to check and prevent violation of environmental norms and preventing any such recurrence in future in any of the establishments dealing with hazardous chemicals.
"A special drive may be initiated in this regard. An action taken report may be furnished within three months.This order will not prejudice any criminal or other statutory proceedings in accordance with law," the bench said.
The NGT said that safety of citizens and environment is of prime concern and any economic or industrial activity, however necessary, has to be consistent with the safety of human beings and the environment.
"The damage to human life, human health and environment has to be restored by applying the 'Sustainable Development' principle, of which 'Precautionary' and 'Polluter Pays' principles are part," the bench said.
The NGT on May 8 sought response from the Centre and others saying 'there appears to be a failure to comply with the said Rules and other statutory provisions'.
It had set up set up a five-member Committee to probe gas leak incident in the chemical factory, in which at leat 11 people were killed and 1,000 exposed.
The matter was taken up suo-motu (on its own) by NGT on the basis of media reports to the effect that leakage of hazardous gas, Styrene, took place on May 7 from a chemical factory owned by the South Korean company LG Polymers India Pvt Ltd, R.R. Venkatpuram village, Pendurthy Mandal, Vishakhapatnam resulting in death of 11 persons.
A major early morning chemical leak from a polymer plant near Visakhapatnam impacted villages in a five-km radius, leaving many people dead and scores of citizens suffering from breathlessness and other problems, as the AP government ordered a probe into the issue.
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 from the multinational L G Polymers Plant at R R Venkatapuram village near Viasakhapatnam, scores of people could be seen lying unconscious on sidewalks, near ditches and on the road, raising fears of a major industrial disaster.