Unearthing an Anthropogenic Disaster

Arup Kumar Sen

Very recently, a ghastly gas leak ‘accident’ took place at L G Polymers unit near Visakhapatnam on May 7, 2020. A field report by Sagar Dhara and K Babu Rao observed: “Over 1,000 persons were hospitalised on 7 May morning due to toxic vapour inhalation and about 400 are still under treatment. Eleven persons died on 7 May and one more person died subsequently”. (May 11, 2020)

In his letter addressed to the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests &Climate Change (MEFCC), Govt. of India, E A S Sarma, Former Secretary to GOI, has documented the scale of the disaster and its hidden cause. Regarding the scale of the disaster, Sarma observed ( May 12, 2020): “The disease burden caused by the accident will stay on for decades to come…It would result in ailments associated with the lungs, the kidneys, the eyes and so on. Styrene is known to cause cancer. Considering the known toxicity of Styrene, it would also result in stunting the affected children’s mental abilities. All these social costs far outweigh the perceived benefits of giving a red carpet treatment such industrial activity”.

In his clarification of the “red carpet treatment” to such industrial activities, E A S Sarma wrote to the Secretary of the MEFCC:

“Your Ministry cannot afford to assume the role of a passive onlooker in the case of the accident at L G Polymers or any other similar accident. You may have unwittingly or otherwise breached the Constitutional obligation of the State to protect the human rights of the citizens by facilitating ex post facto approvals for such potentially dangerous industrial units to operate”.

The above documentation and analysis testify how the industrial disasters are organically connected with the paradigm of “development” being pursued by the State in contemporary India.

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May 21, 2020

Arup Kumar Sen

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