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Concern over transportation of ammonia in Kochi

Sajeev Kumar V.

Kochi , March 15

THE transportation of hazardous materials through the heavily congested roads in Kochi has become a matter of major concern to the people.

Numerous seminars and conventions held in the city have highlighted this aspect and called upon the authorities to prepare a comprehensive action plan to handle chemical accidents as Ernakulam district has a large number of accident-prone industries. Moreover, it was reported that there were no distinct demarcation between industrial and residential areas in the city.

Citing the incidence of transportation of ammonia by the public sector FACT through the congested roads in the city, Environmental Monitoring Forum, a Kochi-based NGO, has filed a complaint with the district administration alleging that the FACT is transporting large quantities of ammonia by road than it was permitted by the Union Environment Ministry on the basis of a contingency plan approved by the District Collector.

In its complaint filed before the District Collector, the forum pointed out that there was no clearance of the Ministry as well as Central and State pollution control boards to transport more than 50 tonnes per day (TPD) of ammonia from Udyogamandal to Cochin Division of the FACT.

The company is moving the cargo through the newly constructed Seaport-Airport road where there are residential colonies and educational institutions. It may not be unimaginable in case of an accident resulting in ammonia leakage near these areas, the complaint said. According to the forum, ammonia is a hazardous and toxic chemical dangerous to human life and property. Its movement through the busy roads of Kochi suburbs is in flagrant violation of the conditions of environmental clearance and also the submission made by the FACT in the Kerala High Court in the counter affidavit filed earlier on a case related with the movement of ammonia.

Counsel for FACT during the hearing of the case had submitted that the transportation of ammonia through roads was not safe. In any case, the quantity being large and the possibility of accident on the road imminent, the Union Government had directed that the transportation should be only through barges, counsel said in the affidavit.

However, contrary to the statement made in the court, the company is engaged in transporting large quantities of ammonia through congested roads under the cover of the contingency plan for transporting 50 TPD approved by the District Collector, the forum said and urged the Collector to ensure that FACT is permitted to transport ammonia through road only with specific environmental clearance obtained from the Ministry.

When contacted, senior officials of FACT denied of transporting large quantities of ammonia by road to Cochin Division. The officials said that only small quantity of ammonia was transported by road and waterways as only one of its plants is currently under operation in Cochin Division. Moreover, adequate safety precautions are taken while dealing with the cargo by road, they added.

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