The Kerala High Court on Tuesday said the port-city has become a “gas chamber” due to the toxic smoke generated by the fire at Brahmapuram waste plant and asked the authorities whether the blaze can be extinguished by Wednesday afternoon.
The observations by a bench of Justices S V Bhatti and Basant Balaji came during the hearing of a petition initiated by the High Court on its own based on a letter by Justice Devan Ramachandran regarding the fire which has been burning at the site since March 2.
During the hearing of the matter in the morning, the bench said that the people of Kochi were “trapped in a gas chamber” like situation even though there were no industries in the city.
Even in cities like Hyderabad and Secunderabad where there are industries no such situation prevails, the court pointed out and called for the presence of the Kochi Corporation secretary and the chairman of the Kerala Pollution Control Board (KPCB) in the afternoon.
In the post lunch session, the bench posed a slew of questions — including whether the fire was man-made, was the plant inspected regularly and what steps were taken against unauthorised dumping of waste.
It also noted that the documents placed before it by the KPCB were “far from reality”.
Besides that, the court also said that it will ensure that waste management in Kochi is streamlined before June 6.
It directed the authorities, including the corporation, that no one who is found to have violated the law be allowed to go unpunished and that all the officials concerned should work in an efficient manner.
The bench directed the authorities to place before it a detailed report on what has to be done to address the prevailing situation in the city and also the issue of waste management in the long term.
During the hearing, the corporation claimed that such fires were occurring across the country and that the blaze at the waste plant was completely extinguished.
It also told the court that its officials regularly visited the waste plant and that CCTV cameras have been placed and awareness campaigns carried out to curb the instances of unauthorised dumping of garbage and littering.
The KPCB blamed the corporation for the pollution levels in Kochi. It said the corporation was not following the directions issued by the board.
The court said there was no point in the authorities blaming one another and instead they should also work together to find a solution to the problem.
It said that there should be a three-pronged approach at the corporation, municipality and the panchayat levels to address the issue of waste management.
Over 30 fire tenders, Indian Navy choppers and personnel as well as fire fighting personnel and equipment from oil-PSUs Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum, etc. were deployed in the last few days to control the blaze and extinguish it.