Ammonia leak: Coromandel seeks fresh technical inspection, NGT reserves verdict

The Southern bench of the NGT observed that CIL’s demands were beyond the tribunal’s jurisdiction and further reserved the final verdict.
Coromandel International Limited (CIL) company in Ennore
Coromandel International Limited (CIL) company in Ennore
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Coromandel International Limited (CIL), on Tuesday, March 5, expressed their discontent over the report submitted by the technical committee – constituted to assess the ammonia gas leak that occurred in their plant in December 2023 – before the Southern bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). CIL’s representatives demanded that an inspection be conducted again with technical experts, including an international expert and one of their own representatives. 

CIL’s representative also argued that the company will not be able to implement all the recommendations of the technical committee and requested that they be granted permission to re-open the facility. The bench, however, observed that CIL’s demands were beyond the tribunal’s jurisdiction and further reserved the final verdict.

CIL’s counsel argued that the company, owned by the Murugappa group, has not been able to access the pipeline to understand the damage. “Since protests are taking place, we are unable to access the pipeline to check the damage. The claim of 68 tonnes of ammonia having leaked over a period of 15 minutes is unacceptable. The quantum of ammonia that leaked must be lesser and the time period within which the leak took place has also been inflated in the previous reports,” the counsel said. 

According to the report filed by CIL, the pipelines carrying ammonia for the pre-cooling process were shut down within two minutes of pressure dropping in the pipes. It also concluded that there was no ammonia detected in the air by 12:30 am on December 27. But, the technical committee submitted a report that claimed that the leak occurred over a span of 15 minutes and the TNPCB submitted a report claiming that ammonia level in the ambient air was at 2,090 micrograms per cubic metre — as against the normal 400 micrograms per cubic metre during a 24-hour average – at 3:49 am on December 27. 

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The bench chaired by Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana and Dr Satyagopal Korlapati, reinforced the court's jurisdiction. Justice Pushpa said, “The authority to grant permission for re-opening lies completely with the TNPCB. You may discuss with the board regarding the implementation of recommendations and depending on the board’s discretion, you may or may not be able to re-open the plant.” 

Read: Ennore gas leak victims say hospital discharged them even as they struggled to breathe

Noting that the technical committee arrived at a compensatory amount of Rs 5.95 crores to be paid by CIL, the bench reserved its judgement. 

Watch: Gasping for breath in Chennai’s Ennore

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