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How did so many houses come up around MIDC?

Updated on: 25 May,2024 07:09 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Prasun Choudhari |

Authorities ignored encroachments in designated safety zones, say experts

How did so many houses come up around MIDC?

Damage to the nearby locality following the blast. Pics/Satej Shinde

Every time an industrial mishap happens, people blame the factory for it but there are no voices raised against those who encroach the buffer zones of these industrial complexes. A boiler blast in the chemical factory at Dombivli MIDC Phase 2 saw the same issue of encroachments in the buffer zone of MIDC. A buffer zone of MIDC Dombivli is designated to be 1.5 km wide. The impact of the blast shattered windows of the illegal residential structures falling inside the buffer zone, causing injuries to residents.

Deven Soni, chairman of Kalyan Ambernath Manufacturing Association (KAMA) in conversation with mid-day said, “Buffer zone is an official term. It refers to the distance between the factories and other structures to avoid residents being affected by any direct impact of any hazardous conditions or mishaps at any industry.”

Damage to a commercial area near the blast site
Damage to a commercial area near the blast site

“Dombivli MIDC was constructed between the 1960s and 1970s. The residents living in the buffer zones have come after the establishment of the industrial zone. The Dombivli MIDC has a buffer zone of 1.5 km. What is more, concerning is that the authorities responsible for permitting residential structures even permitted them [residents] to construct residential structures inside the buffer zone,” Soni said.

“If there are several accidents on a highway, the authorities do not close the highway but install a sign board at the spot stating that it is an ‘accident prone spot, be cautious’. Similar is the case for MIDCs. It is an accident-prone spot. Authorities should have taken action against the residents encroaching on the buffer zones for the safety of citizens,” Soni said.

“The windows of nearby residents shattered within a radius of 500 metres and if I am not wrong, many individuals were injured due to the windows shattering and glass pieces piercing them. If these encroachments would have been dealt with, the number of injuries would have been less.”

Residents speak

Mhatre Pada is a village in Dombivli which falls inside the buffer zone. Residents of Mhatre Pada have expressed concerns after a series of blasts in the past with the 2016 blast and the recent boiler blast. Akshay Mhatre, a resident of Mhatre Pada, said, “When the blast happened, our family was home. Luckily no one was injured by the windows shattering. The government had decided to shift the industries to some other place after the 2016 blast. But to date, no action has been taken.”

Mumbai Fire Brigade officials try to douse the blaze at the chemical plant
Mumbai Fire Brigade officials try to douse the blaze at the chemical plant

Shailesh Mhatre, another resident, said, “The issue needs to be brought up. We have been living here for years and have also witnessed the 2016 blast. No action is taken against the industries. We need quick action to make sure that we live here safely.” When asked about the buffer zone he said, “The government had promised that the industries would shift to Ambernath after the zone 6 boiler blast. But no action was taken after that as well. We are not even aware of any buffer zone and no authorities even told us about the same.”

Dnyaneshwar Munde, another resident of Mhatre Pada, said, “We live in fear of a blast every day. So many chemical factories are there. We also have to inhale the chemical fumes in the air daily. It is not at all safe for us here and it has been years after the promise was made of shifting the industries. I’m not sure if the government will wake up after this blast.” Mangesh Chitale, additional municipal commissioner, KDMC, in a WhatsApp message, said, “I am busy in commissioner’s meeting. Can’t comment without getting a complaint paper of allegations by the association.”

Deven Soni, chairman of Kalyan Ambernath Manufacturing Association; Dnyaneshwar Munde, a resident; Shailesh Mhatre, a resident
Deven Soni, chairman of Kalyan Ambernath Manufacturing Association; Dnyaneshwar Munde, a resident; Shailesh Mhatre, a resident

No hazardous chemical factories in residential areas, says CM

In wake of the Dombivli factory tragedy that left 10 dead and 60 injured, the state government has decided to shift hazardous chemical factories out of residential areas. Speaking at the BMC headquarters Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said, “An expert told me that there was hydrogen peroxide in that factory. As the temperature of the boiler increased, it exploded like a hydrogen bomb. Now we have decided to shift all highly hazardous chemical factories away from residential areas. We have also decided to allow the chemical factories to switch to engineering, textile, IT or any other type of activity. We are considering giving incentives to owners of such factories for doing so.” According to the records of the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), chemical factories are located at 13 locations— Ambernath, Badlapur, Dombivli, Kalyan, Bhiwandi, Lote Parushram (Ratnagiri), Mahad (Raigad), Patalganga (Raigad), Roha (Raigad), Taloja (Raigad), Tarapur (Palghar), Butibori (Nagpur) and Trans Thane creek area.

‘Boiler a ticking timebomb’

The owner of two adjoining units that were damaged in Thursday’s explosion and fire, who refused to identify himself, told mid-day that he had recently complained to Kalyan Ambernath Manufacturing Association (KAMA) that Amudan Chemicals was using hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) in the production process. KAMA Chairman Deven Soni, meanwhile, said, “I received a complaint against Amudan Chemicals and instructed the owner to stop using hydrogen peroxide. The company responded that it would cease its use after completing an order in one-and-a-half months.

A few days before the blast, I was informed that they were transitioning to a new production line that didn't use hydrogen peroxide, but until the transition was complete, they had to continue using it.” Soni, however, pointed out that hydrogen peroxide is not flammable, but generates significant amounts of oxygen while decomposing. Oxygen supports combustion and hence we could see the huge flames and smoke after the blast as hydrogen peroxide started rapidly decomposing due to the heat of the blast.

1.5 km
Stipulated buffer zone area

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