Brahmapuram fire heats up assembly; UDF flays state govt, local body

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Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the state assembly VD Satheesan

Thiruvananthapuram: The still smouldering fire at the Brahmapuram waste plant in Kochi was set "deliberately" to avoid inspection of the site where several years worth of garbage was lying accumulated, Congress-led UDF opposition alleged in the Kerala assembly on Monday.

The government, on the other hand, said the fire appeared to have been caused due to the high temperatures in the state, but it was investigating the matter to find out the actual reasons for it.

Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the state assembly V D Satheesan claimed in the House that the fire has not yet been extinguished or even brought under control and alleged that neither the local administration nor the state government was doing anything to address the serious situation.

The poisonous smoke generated from there, which has even entered homes of the areas neighbouring the waste plant, will cause both short and long term health problems for the people there, he contended in his submission in the House.

The LoP, also an MLA from North Paravur assembly constituency in Ernakulam district, said that the term of one of the contractors, engaged to remove waste from the plant, was coming to an end on March 3 and had sought an extension.

"Before an extension, a site inspection is to be carried out. As the inspection would have revealed the lack of waste clearance operations, the fire was deliberately set to conceal the actual situation on the ground," he claimed.

The fire had broken out at the waste dump on March 2.

Refuting all the allegations of the LoP, state Minister for Local Self Government Institutions M B Rajesh contended that the situation at Brahmapuram was under control and there was no cause for concern or panic.

He also emphasised that there was no health related emergency or cases reported from in and around the waste plant due to the smoke and gave details of the arrangements made by the government to tackle any medical issue related to the toxic fumes generated due to the fire.

Rajesh also divulged details of the decisions taken in a high level meeting held at the Ernakulam District Collectorate on Sunday to address the situation.

"The air quality has improved from what it was on March 2," the minister added.

Rajesh said that there was around over 5 lakh cubic metres of legacy waste accumulated at the plant over the last more than 15 years and a third of it had been cleared.

However, the remaining garbage was accumulated at the site in several layers and that was one of the reasons for the delay in extinguishing the fire completely, he pointed out.

"There have been such fires at the site in the last four years and we will take all necessary steps to ensure it does not happen again in the future."

The minister also said that the actual reason, whether deliberate or natural, for the fire was being investigated.

"But the fact remains that there have been several fires in the state in the past many days and these were probably due to the prevailing extremely high temperatures," he claimed.

Rajesh urged everyone, including the opposition, to work together to address the issue instead of only blaming the state government which has been taking steps to clear the garbage from the site as expeditiously as possible.

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. are actively working together to control the blaze and extinguish it. PTI

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