Chembur Boiler blast: The human dumping ground that sits on a time bomb
Wednesday's blast and fire at the BPCL refinery has brought back to the fore concerns surrounding the residential colony there and the dangerous conditions locals are living in
The blast and fire in a hydrocarbon tank at the BPCL refinery in Mahul on Wednesday has once again raised serious questions about the safety of the rehabilitation colony — a cluster of over 70 buildings — located very close to sensitive installations in that location.
Residents have alleged that not only do they have to battle pollution daily, but they are also always on tenterhooks, afraid that some or the other disaster is on the brink. Drawing a parallel between living there and sitting on a time bomb, most of them are vehement about shifting elsewhere. According to the Mahul Prakalpgrast Samiti, a group of citizens fighting for the shifting of residents from what it calls a "human dumping ground", there are 11,000 houses in the locality of which 5,700 are occupied with 30,000 people.
They want out
B R Verma from the Samiti said, "There are three major refineries here with more than 200 tanks storing approximately 2,000 million litres of highly inflammable petroleum products... These figures themselves show how dangerous it is for a residential colony to be in an industrial area. Wednesday's incident is an apt example of how such disasters can prove deadly.
"The rehabilitation colony in Mahul, which was constructed in 2011, has 72 buildings. It was set up in clear violation of environment and coastal regulation zone guidelines, besides ignoring safety aspects and disaster and national building codes. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has declared this area unhygienic, unhealthy, critically polluted and unsafe for people due to the copious emission of toxic gases."
Another Samiti member and a resident, Nandu Shinde, said, "After the blast, all residents had evacuated their buildings in fear of a collapse. Apart from the daily pollution issue, this is another threat we deal with every day. We are fortunate that this incident did not cause much damage or casualty, but who's giving a guarantee that there won't be any disaster in the future?
"Government should shift us from here to a safe place. We are living under constant threat and inhaling toxic gases." Another resident, Rekha Gadge, said the BMC has planned to spend Rs 29 crore on upgrading infrastructure in the colony, but the locals don't care about that and just want out.
Speaking to mid-day, a senior civic official from the M-west (Chembur, Mahul) ward said, "There has been no damage to the rehabilitation colony, and the area is
safe. Also, the fire was doused and only injuries were reported. These agencies have a good mechanism to fight such disasters. We are working on upgrading the infrastructure of the colony; it will resolve all of residents' problems."
A toxic life
Recently, an affidavit filed by the NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute) before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has shown that pollution level in Mahul is much higher than that mentioned in an earlier report submitted by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board. The latest report states that analysis of samples taken in the winter of 2017 by NEERI at the Evershine layout (rehabilitation colony) showed the level of pollutants 10-15 times higher than results observed so far. The affidavit was filed in connection with a case fought in NGT between Mahul village resident Charudatta Koli and Sea Lord Containers over high-level pollution in the area. mid-day had reported on July 3 about residents facing diseases due to high levels of pollution in Mahul.
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