Herald: ZUARINAGAR RESIDENTS SITTING ON AMMONIA ‘TIME BOMB’
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ZUARINAGAR RESIDENTS SITTING ON AMMONIA ‘TIME BOMB’

01 Feb 2018 05:08am IST

Report by
NAVIN JHA ZUARINAGAR

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01 Feb 2018 05:08am IST

Report by
NAVIN JHA ZUARINAGAR

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Ammonia tanker mishap at Chicalim re-ignites the issue; Residents say they have been suffering for years; ZACL officials emphasise that new equipment and upgradation will solve the issue soon

Nearly eighteen thousand residents of state’s biggest slum at Birla-Zuarinagar as well as hundreds of others residing in the surrounding of Zuari Agro Chemicals Limited (ZACL) fertilizer plant in Sancoale village are inhaling ammonia, getting poisoned every day, unmindful of the fact that their life is getting shortened with every breath they inhale.

“Yes we have been experiencing ammonia problem since last several years and almost every day as we inhale it. In fact on several occasion in past we had even complained about ammonia pollution to our political leaders and after every complaint we have felt some changes as ammonia pollution gets reduced but it starts again and this has been going on from quite a long time,” said 49-year-old Yellapa Chalwadi, a construction labour who resides in a small one-room house with his wife and two for the past 17-odd years.

Like Chalwadi there are hundreds of families living at Zuarinagar slum, besides others, complaining about the problem but the menace continues uninterrupted and multiplies during the monsoon. 

“Initially I was not aware about ammonia menace that exists in Zuarinagar slums. I assumed that the bad and irritating smell in air might be due to sewage or other garbage in our area, but soon we understood that the frequent air pollution is actually due to release of ammonia that we inhale and now all living at Zuarinagar are used to it as it,” Sitaram Nayak, another resident from Birla- Zuarinagar said.

He, however, also added that a majority of people living here represents the poor community. We have no time to protest, as our main issue is earning our daily bread. It is now up to our leaders to take some bold decisions, he added.

Ammonia is one big issue in Zuarinagar area of Sancoale village today. It is not that people from Zuarinagar are completely quite on the issue. A group of residents living in Umiya Habitat apartment have been fighting a long battle against the release of ammonia. In 2016 the residents even threatened to approach NGT Pune bench over the excessive release of ammonia and made a formal appeal to the then Forest and Environment Minister Rajendra Arlekar, MLA Alina Saldanha and Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) seeking intervention to resolve the issue.

After we formally launched our battle against ammonia release the GSPCB officials inspected the site and installed Air Ambient Monitoring device in our building premises. For some time the problem was solved and it started again after GSPCB removed their machines from the site, said one of the residents, Manoj Naik. Even during the public hearing for proposed up-gradation and expansion of ZACL plant I raised the issue but sadly, there was no follow-up to the assurances, he said.

Incidentally, the Sancoale Sarpanch Girish Pillai also lives in same building and had participated in the protest against ammonia pollution.

We all are inhaling ammonia everyday and if anything happens to the ammonia storage tank located in the nearby fertilizer factory then gods knows what would happen, he said.

“After the ammonia leakage incident at Chicalim people of Vasco and Dabolim have realised the seriousness of the issue, but we have been facing the issue for the past several years,” he added.

Meanwhile, a senior official from ZACL downplayed the threat. 

“Ammonia smell issue would be completely curbed once we execute our plant up-gradation plans. Currently we are storing ammonia using ‘Horton sphere storage tank’ (ball shape tank). It’s an old technology and while upgrading plant we will also replace existing ammonia tank with new Japanese technology storage tanks, he empahsised. Normally ammonia fumes goes up but during rains due to cloud cover the fumes remains down and people get ammonia smell. I am sure with the new technology all such issues would be resolved, underlined.

However, for the people of Mormugao and Vasco, the issue of ammonia tank and ammonia transportation is a big issue that grabbed attention after ammonia tanker mishap, but for the people of Zuarinagar, ammonia is something that is ongoing issue faced by them since last several years.

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