Brahmapuram Fiasco; NGT Imposes Rs 100 Cr Fine on Kochi Corporation

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has held the Kerala government responsible for the massive fire at Kochi Corporation’s Brahmapuram dump site and imposed a hefty Rs. 100 Crore fine for the failure of the authorities in taking meaningful action to avoid the disaster.

The fire which started on March 2 could only be doused completely only by March 13, while its smoke still lingers in the air, causing breathing difficulty in the people of the Kochi district.

On Friday, the Principal Bench of NGT pulled up the Kerala Government over the disastrous fire at the solid waste treatment plant that led to severe air pollution in Kochi for nearly two weeks.

Meanwhile, the State Government informed the tribunal about the steps taken to douse the fire and also conveyed that the fire has been quelled and necessary actions are being taken.

The counsel appearing on behalf of the State Government also informed the tribunal that the Kerala High Court has voluntarily filed a case against the state on the Brahmapuram issue, requesting not to file another parallel case by the tribunal.

On Wednesday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan finally broke his silence on the issue by making a statement on the issue on the floor of the Assembly and announced a three-tier probe by different agencies into the fire.

Even though the Assembly was in session as a smog developed after legacy waste deposited at a waster plant at Bramapuram caught fire and engulfed the state’s commercial capital for 12 continuous days, and the Congress-led opposition up in arms, Vijayan maintained a stoic silence, even when treasury and opposition bench members were seen engaged in a war of words.

The special investigation team (SIT) of the state police would investigate the criminal case registered in connection with the fire that broke out on March 2, he told the state Assembly.

With the smog coming to an end on Wednesday after hundreds of men and machines worked day and night, Vijayan took cover under Rule 300 of the Kerala Assembly rules and procedures and made a statement wherein he said a thorough probe will take place.

“There will be a Vigilance probe, a special team will probe on how the fire broke out and in future, there will be weekly checks and analysis that will take place on the prevailing condition at the waste plant site,” he said.

At the same time, an expert team would be deployed to make recommendations on how to avoid such accidents in future and how to make the waste management programme operational, he said.

The terms of reference of the panel’s probe would include the causes that led to the fire, how suitable is the current site as a solid waste treatment-disposal facility, to what extent have the observations and recommendations made by the State Pollution Control Board been followed there and so on, he explained.

Quoting available figures, Vijayan said as many as 1,335 residents have sought treatment in government and private hospitals after the incident.

Among them, 21 people required hospitalisation and no one had any serious health issue, he added.

In the wake of the fire break in Brahmapuram plant, Vijayan said his government has initiated steps to bring in international expertise for waste management in the state.

The World Bank has already expressed its willingness and the government would hold discussions with its delegation on March 21-23, the CM said, adding that the expertise of other agencies would also be utilised for the same.

Congratulating various government agencies including the Fire Force for containing the fire and related operations, he said various agencies carried out a coordinated mission.

To ensure that no more such incidents are repeated in the future, the goal of scientific waste disposal should be made a reality in the state, the CM added.

However, before Vijayan started speaking, Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan led the entire opposition out of the house.

Talking to the media, the Congress leader said Rule 300 is like All India Radio, where one can only hear and cannot ask any questions. “Is Vijayan All India Radio? The fact of the matter is Vijayan is scared of questions and hence he is using Rule 300 to wriggle out of this,” said Satheesan.

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