Vizag gas leak


Vizag gas leak: Who is liable?

      WHY IN NEWS:

Centre for Science and Environment attributes accident to LG Polymers’ negligence, not adhering to safety protocol

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3:Disaster management


For PRELIMS its important to know this chemical and its usage .

For MAINS we have mentioned each act supported with its efficacy .


The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based think tank, has come out with an assessment of the styrene gas leak that occurred in the plant of LG Polymers India Pvt Ltd early morning May 7, 2020.

Vizag gas leak | UPSC


Styrene — an organic compound used in the production of polymers, plastics and resins — is manufactured in petrochemical refineries.

  • It is, likely, a carcinogenic substance that can react with oxygen in air to mutate into styrene dioxide, a substance that is more lethal.
  • According to The Manufacture, Storage And Import Of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989, styrene is classified as a toxic and hazardous chemical.


Acute (short-term) exposure to styrene in humans results in mucous membrane, eye irritation and gastro-intestinal effects.

  • Chronic (long-term) exposure results in effects on the central nervous system (CNS), including headaches, fatigue, weakness, depression, CSN dysfunction, hearing loss and peripheral neuropathy.
If it goes beyond 800 parts per million, the person can go into a coma.
  • The duration of the exposure and its relative concentration determines toxicity.
  • We currently know that roughly three tonnes of gas leaked from the plant’s styrene storage tank and the feeding line.
  • Styrene stays in air for weeks and is highly reactive.
  • “The presence of other pollutants can also affect reactivity.



Styrene monomer (a single unit of styrene) was used at the manufacturing plant to produce expandable plastics.

  • The storage requirement of styrene monomer strictly mentions that it has to be below 17 degrees Celsius.
  • The leak occurred as a result of styrene gas not being kept at the appropriate temperature.
  • This caused a pressure build-up in the storage chamber that contained styrene and caused the valve to break, resulting in the gas leakage.
  • The container that was being used to store styrene gas was old and not properly maintained.
  • Another issue was a defunct volatile organic compound (VOC) detection system at the plant.
  • There is no monitoring mechanism installed to specifically detect styrene.
  • The impact zone has been in the range of 2-3 kilometres.
  • There is a revenue village and the facility is surrounded by residential areas, resulting in a higher rate of gas exposure.


  • The most important immediate treatment is to give oxygen to affected people.
  • The people in the zone also need to be evacuated as long-term exposure can be detrimental to their health.
  • Also, as styrene reacts to form styrene dioxide, the air could remain contaminated for some time.
  • However, the winds blowing from the sea could also help disperse the gas.


After the Bhopal disaster, many legislations were enacted starting from the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to the Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991.

  • According to The Manufacture, Storage And Import Of Hazardous Chemical Rules 1989, styrene is classified as a hazardous and toxic chemical.
Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 Omnibus act, which gives sweeping powers to Central government to take all measures to protect the environment
Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 Set discharge and product standards – source standards for restricting pollution; product standards for manufactured goods and ambient air and water standards – for regulating quality of life and environmental protection
Hazardous Waste (Management Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 1989 Industry required to identify major accident hazards, take preventive measures and submit a report to the designated authorities
Manufacture, Storage And Import Of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989 Importer must furnish complete product safety information to the competent authority and must transport imported chemicals in accordance with the amended rules.
Chemical Accidents (Emergency, Planning, Preparedness and Response) Rules, 1996 Centre is required to constitute a central crisis group for management of chemical accidents; set up quick response mechanism termed as the crisis alert system. Each state is required to set up a crisis group and report on its work.
Factories Amendment Act, 1987 Provision to regulate siting of hazardous units; safety of workers and nearby residents and mandates for on-site emergency plans and disaster control measures
Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 Imposes a no-fault liability on the owner of hazardous substance and requires the owner to compensate victims of accident irrespective of any neglect or default. For this, the owner is required to take out an insurance policy covering potential liability from any accident.


      IASbhai WINDUP: 


  • There are clear rules on hazardous chemical storage under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
  • The unit is a ISO certified which means it has protocol for everything.
  • However, what seems to be the case, is that the plant management, in its haste to re-start the plant has ignored the protocol of doing maintenance of the plant before resuming operation.
  • This combined with the lack of proper storage of the gas – not maintained at the temperature required –faulty fixtures could have resulted in the accident


  • This shows us that there are ticking bombs out there as lockdown ends and industries start resuming activity.
  • Therefore, immediate directive must go to all units to ensure safety while resuming activity and also in case the lockdown continues, these safety precautions must not be negated.


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