Navi Mumbai: Gas leak kills 31 monkeys, 14 rock pigeons


NAVI MUMBAI/ MUMBAI : At Least 31 monkeys and 14 rock pigeons were found dead after a gas leak incident from a nitric acid plant at Rasayani near Panvel.

The acid leakage incident reportedly occurred on Thursday night around 10.30pm while the forest officials got to know of it on Saturday. But Officials say that the staff of the facility tried to suppress the incident by burying the dead animals and birds in a pit on a nearby land.

The facility was previously owned by HOCL and has been transferred to ISRO recently, BPCL too owns some of the area there, said a senior official. However all the three agencies denied any role in the incident.

The Assistant Conservator of Forest (Wild Life & CAMPA) Panvel has booked seven BPCL officials and workers, and an excavator driver in this connection.

BPCL officials denied that the animals were buried on their land.

However, the area is under tight security and media as well as police were restrained from entering inside. Locals say that the number of animals and birds that have died are much more than those being reported. According to sources, two security guards were exposed minutely to the nitric acid leakage.

Speaking from the spot, the Raigad deputy conservator of forests Maneesh Kumar said, “Based on our tip off the local forest officials were sent to the site around Saturday noon. Post mortem was conducted besides our team noticing pits dug up for burial of the animals and birds.”

The Panvel range forest officer Dnyaneshwar Sonawane said, “The HOCL area (Posari, Panvel) has been given to ISRO and BPCL. Many of the manufacturing units of HOCL have been closed except the CNA Plant (Nitric Acid). Due to the nitric acid exposure on Thursday night monkeys and pigeons were killed. Our team inspected the area on Saturday noon and found dead bodies of 31 monkeys and 14 rock pigeons.”

Sonawane added, “Our team was surprised to see that the authorities without informing the concerned agencies have dumped the pigeons and monkeys by digging pits using excavators. Hence seven officials and workers of BPCL besides the excavator driver was booked. They will be questioned in this connection.”

ISRO spokesperson said that they do not own any plant in Rasayani. Senior officials from the environment department said that a team from the pollution control board was sent to the spot on Saturday and they have been asked to submit a report in the next two days. Based on the lapses that they point out in their report, action will be initiated against the companies.

A contract worker source requesting anonymity alleged, “Two security guards deployed at the plant site were minutely exposed to the nitric acid but were safe. The media and police were restrained from visiting the area citing security reasons due to ISRO area. Number of trees around the plant area have a habitat for the pigeons and monkeys.”

Another contract worker Navnath Vitkar said many birds were living and were killed in the acid leakage incidence. A JCB was inside the plant.

Wild Life activist Abhijit Gharat alleged, the companies in connivance with the MPCB and forest department officials have tried to suppress the issue. We demanded before the

Deputy Conservator of Forest
that the Panchnama should be done in presence of wild life activists.

The Rasayani police inspector Ashok Jagdale said, “Being the high security area we are also not allowed go inside. Also no information was received regarding exposure of security persons to the nitric acid.”

The forest department has booked the eight persons under Wild Life Protection Act 1972 section 9 (prohibition of hunting), sec-39 (restricting possession, gift or sale, and destroy or damage of government property), sec -52 ( attempts to contravene, or abets the contravention of, any of the provisions of this Act) and sec 58 ( Punishment for an offence against this Act has been committed by a company, every person who, at the time the offence was committed).

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