February 22, 2011

Govt may ban ammonia in cold storage units

TNN, Jan 25, 2011, 12.55am IST

KOLKATA: First Barrackpore, then Manicktala and now Nagerbazar. Worried by the repeated incidents of gas leak in densely populated areas, the West Bengal Pollution Control Board is considering banning the use of ammonia in cold storages.

"There are other options, already in use, which can be minimise the use of ammonia and chlorine in coolants," said a PCB official. The board is likely to issue a directive on January 27.

PCB has asked its scientists to find out if climatic conditions this winter has been the coldest in years could be one of the factors in the recurrent gas leaks.

PCB officials admit that there is no mechanism to monitor these small cold storages spread out in the outskirts. "The volume of ammonia they store is within permissible limits. We cannot book them for air or water pollution. We are monitoring the large ones situated outside the KMA limits," a PCB officer said.

All these units came up before the West Bengal Town and Country Planning Act, 1979, came into force. In 1997, the PCB took an initiative to identify hazardous industries to move them out of the city. "The government shifted the Howrah foundry units and tanneries in the Beliaghata, Tiljala and Topsia under Supreme Court directives but cold storages escaped the notice of the board because they do not regularly discharge effluents," the PCB official said.

There is another side to the story. Unlike other metros, Kolkata did not have a land map demarcating residential, industrial and mixed areas. This allowed many residential complexes to come up in erstwhile industrial areas in North 24-Parganas, Howrah and Kolkata. When KMDA put the land map in place, it could do little about the old units.

Complaints about these units poured in from residents but the government could not relocate them due to lack of space. Now, the government is considering a proposal to bring all chemical storage units under the scanner. "The PCB is preparing a list of all such units to bring them under the Factory Act," said an official.

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