Kochi struggles to breathe amid toxic smoke: What led to Brahmapuram plant fire?
Though the week-long fire at the 110-acre waste plant in the port city of Kerala was brought under control on Sunday, the town continues to remain engulfed in toxic smoke as the the air quality index remained more than 300 PM 2.5 in the days following the massive fire.
Nearly a week after the massive fire at the Brahmapuram waste plant in Kerala’s Kochi, the city continues to remain engulfed in toxic smoke as locals await a return to a life of normalcy in the coastal city. Though the week-long fire in the waste dump yard, sparked on March 2 was controlled on Sunday, the town residents see no relief in sight as the cases of breathlessness and discomfort have increased due to the smoke emanating from the fire that had spread over a 30km radius.
How situations unfolded at the Kochi plant?
1) On March 2, the Southern Naval Command said a massive fire broke out at the Brahmapuram waste plant in Kochi. Following the incident, more than 5,000 litres of water was sprayed on the same day, in the active fire zones of 110-acre yards in a bid to douse the fire.
2) In the following days, 31 earth-moving machines and high-pressure water pumps were used to control the fire. Naval helicopters were also deployed at the site when the ground operations were ineffective due to the wind direction. However, it took about a week until the fire was controlled by Sunday.
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3) Town’s mayor Anil Kumar told news agency ANI that the dump yard has been witnessing periodic fires since 2012. “But now, the coordination has been strengthened," he said. With the incident, allegations of corruption also surfaced as a Bengaluru-based firm (Zonta Infratech Private Limited) being run by the son-in-law of a senior CPI(M) leader was awarded ₹54 crore bio-mining contract for the yard.
5) Some people close to the city corporation also revealed to Hindustan Times earlier that when nepotism charges were questioned about the contract, the firm awarded a subcontract to a company run by a senior Congress leader’s son. They also alleged the fire was “a man-made fire that slipped out of control later”.
6) Hearing the matter on Wednesday, the Kerala High Court sought a detailed report from the Ernakulam District Collector (DC) regarding the situation at the plant. During the hearing, the lawyer appearing for the Collector said that the DC had advised the city corporation, three days before the fire broke out, to be cautious due to the rising temperatures. The Kochi Corporation argued that they had the situation under control. It was also revealed that another fire had broken out on Tuesday night but was put out.
7) The court which listed the matter for further hearing today, said it intervened in the matter as a pollution-free environment was a human right. While before the dump yard fire, the average air quality of the city remained below 100, the air quality index remained more than 300 PM 2.5 (fine particulate matter in the air) in the week after the incident, the state pollution control board data revealed.