Toxic fumes emanating from the Brahmapuram waste plant fire in Kochi has forced the Ernakulam district administration to declare a three-day holiday at all educational institutions across eight local bodies.
Schools and colleges in Kochi Municipal Corporation area, in Vadavucode-Puthecruz, Kizhakkambalam, and Kunnathunadu panchayat areas, and in Thrikkakara, Maradu and Kalamassery municipality areas will remain closed from Monday (March 13) to Wednesday (March 15).
However, according to a press release by Ernakulam District Collector NSK Umesh, secondary school-leaving exams, including SSLC, VHSE, and HSE plus-one and plus-two exams, and university exams will be conducted as scheduled.
Also read: Smoke from Kochi waste plant fire toxic; declare health emergency there: Kerala LoP
Mammootty complains of breathlessness
Popular actor Mammootty has highlighted the air quality issue as well, saying he had fever and shortness of breath after landing in Kochi from Pune, where he had gone for shooting. He added that even when he left for Wayanad, he still faced breathing trouble.
“The problem is not only in and around Kochi. It is spreading beyond the neighbouring districts. This is a huge insecurity,” Mammootty told a media house, emphasising the need for a permanent solution to the Brahmapuram problem.
Fire ‘95% under control’
The fire at the Brahmapuram waste plant was reported on March 2. Besides the fire brigade and the police, the Indian Navy and the Air Force were also called in to tame the blaze.
As part of ongoing effort to assist #Firefighting at #BrahmapuramFire, #IndianNavy Seaking & ALH continued Large Area Aerial Liquid Dispersion Equipment (LAALDE) Ops. >20000 L of water sprayed to aid ground firefighters. All out effort in hand to contain situation at the earliest pic.twitter.com/LHb1beenMX
— Southern Naval Command (@IN_HQSNC) March 7, 2023
On Sunday (March 12), the Ernakulam district collector claimed that 95% of the fire has been doused. He claimed that the government has sought the help of the New York Fire Department to help bring the fire totally under control.
However, even though the fire is under control, the toxic fumes from the waste plant and the acrid smell of burning plastic continue to wreak havoc across the district. With citizens complaining of breathing trouble and dry eyes, the local administration has advised them to remain indoors as far as possible and use N-95 masks when they must step out.
Matter in HC
On March 7, the Kerala High Court, while hearing a suo-motu petition, remarked that Kochi had turned into a “gas chamber.” It had also posed a slew of questions to the Kochi Corporation secretary and the chairman of the Kerala Pollution Control Board.
On March 11, a high court-appointed committee visited the waste treatment plant. After that, additional chief secretary Dr Jayathilak called a high-level meeting to review the situation at Brahmapuram.
While the Congress-led UDF has alleged that the fire was set “deliberately” to avoid inspection of the site where garbage had been accumulating for several years, the BJP has accused both the ruling CPI(M) and the UDF of “settling” the Brahmapuram fire case, as the waste management contractors were relatives of top leaders of these parties.
(With agency inputs)