Home >Politics >Policy >Environment ministry to revise rules on chemical accidents

New Delhi: After several accidents in the chemical industry in recent past highlighted the gaps in rules to handle chemical accidents in India, the Union environment ministry has now decided to amend the chemical accident rules.

The ministry has stated that there is an urgent need to introduce new rules to suit the present needs.

Chemical accidents in India are primarily handled under two set of regulations, which are Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals (MSIHC) Rules 1989 and Chemical Accidents (Emergency Planning, Preparedness and Response) (CAEPPR) Rules 1996.

The objective of MSIHC Rules is to prevent major chemical accidents arising from industrial activates and limit the effects of chemical (industrial) accidents. The CAEPPR Rules provide the statutory back-up for Crisis Management.

But Anil Madhav Dave-led Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) believes the rules need an upgrade.

The ministry last week issued a notice seeking inputs and comments regarding amendments into the chemical accident rules.

“A number of accidents in chemical industry installations in the recent past have brought into focus the need to review the missing gaps in the rules so that effective enforcement of regulations in chemical industry is ensured. There is an urgent need for amendment of the aforesaid rules in line with the existing needs for minimization/control of chemical (industrial) accidents," said the MoEFCC’s notice.

“All departments, stakeholders, citizens are requested to furnish their inputs, information, comments on areas of amendments required in the rules," the notice added.

As per the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the country’s nodal disaster management agency, the installations which are at highest risks due to chemical disaster primarily include the industrial plant, its employees and workers, hazardous chemicals vehicles, the residents of nearby settlements, adjacent buildings, occupants and surrounding community.

Chemical accidents are a serious concern for India, which in 1984 witnessed one of the world’s worst chemical disasters, the Bhopal gas tragedy, where over thousands of people died due to accidental leakage of nearly 42 tonnes of toxic gas, Methyl Iso Cyanate (MIC), in the intervening night of 2-3 December 1984.

Official estimate put the toll at 5,000, though activists who have long been fighting for both justice and compensation for the victims put the figure at 25,000.

Besides the deaths, the accident led to physical disabilities in people of the area and thousands of children born to parents, who had been exposed to the gas, in subsequent years suffered from birth defects.

But Bhopal was not the last accident.

India has witnessed a series of chemical accidents even after Bhopal.

As per the NDMA, only in the last decade, 130 significant chemical accidents were reported from across the country, which resulted in 259 deaths and 563 injured people.

This May, four persons were killed and around 85 were injured in a major blast at a chemical plant in Dombivli (Maharashtra), around 41km from Mumbai.

Under various rules and regulations, the country has taken some steps to control major chemical accidents. According to NDMA, there are about 1,861 Major Accident Hazard units, spread across 301 districts and 25 states and three union territories.

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