The Kerala High Court on Tuesday (March 7) said Kochi had turned into a “gas chamber,” thanks to the toxic smoke being produced by the fire that has been burning at the Brahmapuram waste plant since March 2.
Hearing a petition initiated suo motu by the High Court based on a letter by Justice Devan Ramachandran, a Bench of Justices S V Bhatti and Basant Balaji asked the authorities whether the blaze can be extinguished by Wednesday afternoon.
The Bench said the people of the port city were “trapped in a gas chamber”-like situation even though there were no industries in the city. Even in cities like Hyderabad and Secunderabad, which house industries, the situation is not like in Kochi, the court pointed out.
Also read: Fire at Brahmapuram waste plant in Kochi set deliberately, UDF claims in assembly
While hearing the matter in the morning, the Bench sought the presence of the Kochi Corporation secretary and the chairman of the Kerala Pollution Control Board (KPCB) in the afternoon.
Court poses questions, seeks report
In the post-lunch session, the Bench posed a slew of questions, while noting that the documents placed before it by the KPCB were “far from reality”. The queries included whether the fire was manmade, whether the plant was inspected regularly, and what were the steps taken against unauthorised dumping of waste.
Besides, the court added that it would ensure that waste management in Kochi was streamlined before June 6. It directed the authorities, including the corporation, to ensure that no one found to have violated the law went unpunished and that all the officials concerned worked efficiently.
The Bench also directed the authorities to place before it a detailed report on what must be done to address the prevailing situation in the city and the issue of waste management in the long term.
KPCB blames corporation
During the hearing, the corporation claimed that such fires were occurring across the country and that the blaze at the waste plant had been extinguished. It also told the court that its officials regularly visited the waste plant and that CCTV cameras had been placed and awareness campaigns carried out to curb the instances of unauthorised dumping of garbage and littering.
Also read: Air quality bad in parts of Kochi due to waste plant fire
The KPCB, on the other hand, blamed the corporation for the pollution levels in Kochi. It said the corporation was not following the directions issued by the board.
The court said there was no point in the authorities blaming one another and that they should work together to find a solution to the problem instead. It said there should be a three-pronged approach at the corporation, municipality, and panchayat levels to address the issue of waste management.
Over 30 fire tenders, Indian Navy choppers and personnel, as well as fire-fighters and equipment from oil PSUs Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum, among others, have been deployed to control the blaze.
(With agency inputs)