Ammonium Nitrate threat to Kondapalli fort

Ammonium Nitrate threat to Kondapalli fort
Highlights

A huge threat is looming over the historic Kondapalli Fort and the renowned toys from the allied region as the Krishna district administration has cleared all permissions to establish a 100 metric tonnes ammonium nitrate plant in the vicinity.

A huge threat is looming over the historic Kondapalli Fort and the renowned toys from the allied region as the Krishna district administration has cleared all permissions to establish a 100 metric tonnes ammonium nitrate plant in the vicinity.

Lanco Power Plant, the Indian Oil Corporation, the Bharat Petroleum Corporation and the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation have massive units near the proposed plant. As to how the officials could clear the project which would be located within one kilometre radius to the three major companies is highly questionable.

The Krishna district joint collector had issued a No Objection Certificate (NOC) on November 12, 2014, to the applicant, B Tulasidasan, a resident of Vijayawada, following clearances from the Commissioner of Police on June 18, the district fire officer on April 30 and the sub-collector on August 28. The storage building had come up on Survey no. 22/2 of Kondapalli village.

Interestingly, the issue came to light with the Kondapalli village panchayat received an application from Tulasidasan seeking permission for the construction of a storage house, which is already nearing completion. The gram panchayat, which took up the application at its general body meeting on Monday, witnessed mild resistance from the members. The gram sarpanch, Venigalla Ammaji, informed the members about the application, who expressed fears over the safety of the historical Kondapalli town.

However, against the objections raised by the members, the gram panchayat passed a resolution clearing permission, quoting the NOC issued by the district joint collector.

“We issued a NOC only after the fire services department had cleared it,” said district Joint Collector S Murali, while speaking to the Vijayawada Hans. He said that he had personally inspected the location and felt that there was no threat to the public or the oil companies located in the area.

“The location for the store house is 300 metres away from the railway line and one kilometre away from the oil companies,” he said.

He added that they would have to issue the final NOC after installation, once the chief controller of explosives from Nagpur and the deputy chief controller of explosives from Hyderabad inspect the location.

The highly explosive content – ammonium nitrate – was found to be used in the 2011 Delhi bombings and 2013 Dilshukhnagar blasts in Hyderabad. Also, the explosive was used in Oslo and Oklahoma City blasts in 2011, following which the countries have imposed safety measures on its storage.

Ironically, the district administration had cleared the proposal where the owner proposed to sell it with the help of an 'experienced clerk' and a watchman. The district administration, while clearing the application, certified that the applicant “has experience in conducting ammonium nitrate business for the past 20 years (before the Ammonium Nitrate Rules 2012 came into force),” justifying the clearance.

One wonders whether the officials have studied the Texas City disaster of 1947, which is treated as the deadliest industrial accident in US history caused by the explosion of ammonium nitrate in which even members of the fire fighting team were killed.

Senior IAS officer Dr EAS Sarma, former secretary of economic affairs, Government of India, raised objection over locating the ammonium nitrate storage at Kondapalli.

"The east coast is open to terrorist threats and I wonder why they have given permission for its storage there," Sarma said.

He feared that the ammonium nitrate, which is used in hill blasting, could be misused at the quarries. "If half a kilo of ammonium nitrate goes into the hands of terrorists or anti-social elements that have connections along the coast, it would be disastrous for the State in particular and for the nation in general," he pointed out.

The storage of ammonium nitrate might also lead to health disasters. The inhalation of high concentrations of the chemical dust can cause respiratory tract irritation resulting in cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or even suffocation. When consumed, headache, dizziness, abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, weakness, suffocation and the likes, will follow.

By: D Gopi

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