The National Green Tribunal (NGT) said on Wednesday that LG Polymers has absolute liability for the loss of life in the recent gas leak incident at its Visakhapatnam plant, and directed the Rs 50 crore penalty imposed on it to be used as compensation to the victims and for environment restoration.
A styrene gas leak from the plant had killed 12 people and affected another 1,000 in the early hours of May 7, besides causing environmental damage.
The NGT took suo motu cognizance of the case a day later and imposed a fine of Rs 50 crore on the South Korean company.
In an order on Wednesday, an NGT bench headed by its Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel noted, “We find the company has strict and absolute liability for the environmental damage and consequential loss to life and public health in this case.”
The bench said that the amount will stand appropriated towards part liability and interim compensation to be spent for restoration of the environment and compensation for the victims.
The NGT said that safety of citizens and environment is of “prime concern” and any economic or industrial activity has to be consistent with the safety of human beings and the environment.
The final calculation of compensation will be assessed by a committee comprising representatives of the Ministry of Environment, the Central Pollution Control Board and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, the tribunal said.
“The Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC), may ensure the constitution of the committee within two weeks from today. The committee may give its report within two months thereafter. The MoEF & CC will be the nodal agency for the purpose,” the order stated.
The NGT said that the company cannot recommence its operation without requisite statutory clearances and directed that if any such statutory clearances are granted and the company proposes to recommence, it must first be brought to the notice of the tribunal.
It also directed that a restoration plan be prepared by a committee comprising two representatives each of the Environment Ministry and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and three representatives of the Andhra Pradesh government.
The bench comprising Justices Sheo Kumar Singh and Nagin Nanda directed the Andhra Pradesh government to take appropriate action against the erring people who were responsible for permitting LG Polymer to operate without statutory clearances.
The NGT also directed the Environment Ministry to constitute an expert committee to suggest ways to revamp the monitoring mechanisms to prevent violation of environmental norms and prevent such recurrence. The NGT has asked the ministry to file an action taken report within three months.