On Saturday morning, Ulhasnagar residents woke up feeling nauseous, giddy, and suffering from severe headache, vomiting, respiratory problems and indigestion.
The crater formed near Ulhas river
The cause? Tankers had allegedly dumped poisonous chemicals in the Ulhas River around 2.30 am. The Ulhasnagar Central Hospital and four other hospitals had a hectic morning as they had to deal with a constant inflow of patients. A team of four specialists from JJ Hospital were also dispatched to attend to the patients.
Ambarnath police, under whose jurisdiction the area falls, have already filed a First Incident Report (FIR) against unknown individuals, since the accused are yet to be identified.
One of the patients, Deepak Nupe, kept under observation at Ulhasnagar Central Hospital said, “I was on my way to work when I saw two people from my neighbourhood pass out. Till the time I could reach out to help, it became difficult for me to breath and I, too, fainted. Next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital.”
At the last count, more than 500 people had received treatment at various hospitals.
Dr Ashok Nandapurkar, civil surgeon at Ulhasnagar Central Hospital, said they had enough resources to tackle the situation. “All the patients narrated similar complications. We admitted 25 patients as their condition was serious, while the rest were sent home after primary treatment.”
However, Nandapurkar added that had the patients not reached on time, the situation would’ve turned much more serious.
When sunday mid-day visited the bank of the river, we saw a huge crater, allegedly formed due to constant release of the chemical content in the river. Local residents confirmed that around five trucks have been making visits every alternate day to the spot in order to dump the chemicals.
“This is nothing new for us, it’s been going on since a year. The frequency of the tanker visits has reduced, but one can still spot them on alternate days,” said Ishwar Singh, owner of Sara engineering, a bus-building factory that is located right opposite the alleged chemical release point.
“Our employees have complained about the issue multiple times. We have even sent letters to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, but till date no action has been taken against this illegal activity, he added.
Even the authorities at Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had no clue about the incident. An official from MPCB who rushed to inspect the point of chemical release said, “The content of the chemical can only be known after the inspection is completed after 48 hours.”