The National Green Tribunal has said that LG Polymers had “absolute liability” for the deaths in the gas leak incident at its Visakhapatnam plant last month, PTI reported on Wednesday. The order, which was passed on Monday, also rejected the firm’s petition for a review of a previous order asking it to pay Rs 50 crore as penalty.
Eleven people, including a child, had died after toxic gas leaked from the chemical plant of the company on May 7. The gas leak occurred at the LG Polymers Plant at RR Venkatapuram near Naiduthota area between 2.30 am and 3 am and spread over a radius of about 3 km, affecting at least five villages.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel directed the firm to spend the Rs 50-crore penalty on providing compensation to the victims of the gas leak. The bench said the calculation of compensation should be assessed by a committee comprising of representatives of Ministry of Environment, the Central Pollution Control Board and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute.
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The NGT also directed the Andhra Pradesh government to identify and take appropriate action against people who allowed LG Polymers to operate without statutory clearances and submit a report. “In view of the stand of the state pollution control board and the company that it will not recommence its operation without requisite statutory clearances, we direct that if any such statutory clearances are granted and the Company proposes to recommence, this aspect must be brought to the notice of this tribunal so that compliance of law is ensured,” the bench said.
The court also asked the Centre to set up an expert committee to suggest ways to prevent incidents like the Vizag gas leak. The NGT added that the safety of citizens and environment must be a top priority and economic activities must adhere to safety standards. “The damage to human life, human health and environment has to be restored by applying the ‘Sustainable Development’ principle, of which ‘Precautionary’ and ‘Polluter Pays’ principles are part,” the bench said.
Last month, the Andhra Pradesh High Court had ordered the state government to seize the premises of LG Polymers plant in Visakhapatnam and not to allow the company’s directors to leave the country without the court’s permission.