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NGT takes suo-motu cognizance of Gas leak, directs LG to deposit Rs 50 Cr initially

The NGT on May 8, 2020 {In re: Gas Leak at LG Polymers Chemical Plant in RR Venkatapuram Village Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh} of which cognizance had been taken suo-motu held that Styrene gas is a hazardous chemical as defined under Rule 2(e) read with Entry 583 of Schedule I to the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemical Rules, 1989. It was held that the Rules require on-site and off-site Emergency Plans to ensure prevention of damage. It was further held that there appears to be failure to comply with the said Rules and other statutory provisions. It was held that leakage of hazardous gas at such a scale adversely affecting public health and environment, clearly attracts the principle of ‘Strict Liability’ against the enterprise engaged in hazardous or inherently dangerous industry. It was held that such an entity is liable to restore the damage caused under the Environment Law, apart from other statutory liability.

It was further observed by the NGT Principal Bench, comprising of JUSTICE ADARSH KUMAR GOEL, JUSTICE SHEO KUMAR SINGH & DR. NAGIN NANDA, that leakage of hazardous gas, Styrene, took place at 03:45AM on 07.05.2020, from a chemical factory owned by the South Korean company LG Polymers India Pvt., Limited, R.R. Venkatpuram village, Pendurthy Mandal, Vishakhapatnam resulting in death of 11 persons and hospitalization of more than 100 people of whom at least 25 were reported to be serious. It was observed that these fatalities and injuries are reportedly likely to increase. It was held that more than 1000 persons are reported sick. It was also observed that there is also damage to environment and habitat. It was held that the media reports give rise to a substantial question of environment, which needs to be gone into by the Tribunal under Sections 14 and 15 of the NGT Act, 2010.

It was held that the Tribunal has to perform its statutory obligation of providing relief and compensation to the victims of “environmental damage”, as statutorily enacted, and restitution of damaged property and environment. It was held that having regard to the prima facie material regarding the extent of damage to life, public health and environment, the Tribunal directs LG Polymers India Pvt., Limited to forthwith deposit an initial amount of Rs. 50 Crore, with the District Magistrate, Vishakhapatnam, which will abide by further orders of the Tribunal. It was held that the amount is being fixed having regard to the financial worth of the company and the extent of the damage caused. The deposit directed was ad-interim.

The NGT, inter alia, issued notice to LG, and also constituted Committee of Six experts for submission of report after doing study of all the aspects, and fixed the matter for 18/05/2020. The parties were also directed to submit their reply in meanwhile.

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