The blast in a chemical factory in Dombivli on Thursday has once again brought the focus back on the need to shift these industries out of residential areas. Soon after the blast in which 11 were killed and more than 150 injured, industries minister Subhash Desai announced that steps will be taken to avoid similar tragedies in future.
While the state government plans to frame a new policy to shift these industries out of the city limits, urban planners said this will not be easy.
“The plan looks possible on paper but is not easy to implement. Before relocating these industries, the government will have to check if the new location is suitable to them and also if the new location is accessible to the workers. In addition, it will have to provide infrastructure such as power and water in the new area. Availability of land, raw material and connectivity will have to worked out,” a former planner with state government’s planning and development body City and Industrial Corporation (Cidco), who did not wish to be named, said.
Another Cidco official said a number of chemical industries in Navi Mumbai were shifted to areas beyond Panvel that now have several residential colonies. “Even if the government manages to shift these industries to new areas, it will have hard time ensuring that the required buffer area between industries and human settlement is maintained,” the official said.
Satish Deshmukh, who was employed with a chemical manufacturing company in Navi Mumbai, said rules were not followed by either by the chemical factories or the civic authorities to ensure that the area surrounding the industries are not populated.
“According to rules, there should not have been residential development in at least one-km radius of the chemical companies in Trans Thane Creek (TTC) industrial belt. As there were no checks, ancillary companies and labourers’ camps, residential buildings mushroomed in the area. We have seen except very few companies, which are giants in the business, no company took safety measures seriously,” said Deshmukh.
Environmentalist D Stalin blamed Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) for not ensuring that chemical companies take safety measures to prevent these tragedies. “The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has observed that the safety norms were not followed by these companies. MIDC and MPCB were silent on this, despite declaration of Dombivli MIDC as major polluted area by the Union environment ministry in 2009,” he said.