Brahmapuram fire: Residents gasp for air as Kochi reels amid inferno aftermath
The fire that broke out at the solid waste dump yard in Brahmapuram last Thursday was controlled by Sunday but there was no let up in smoke emanating from it that had spread over 30km radius
Kochi continues to reel under the toxic smoke billowing from its solid waste dump yard in Brahmapuram for more than a week as authorities have begun organising medical camps in several parts of the port city on Thursday after residents complained of breathlessness and discomfort.
The fire that broke out at the solid waste dump yard in Brahmapuram last Thursday was controlled by Sunday but there was no let up in smoke emanating from it that had spread over 30km radius.
Besides medical camps, the number of patients visiting private hospitals complaining of respiratory tract issues have also gone up considerably, said the Indian Medical Association IMA) Kochi chapter.
“When plastic is burned it releases toxic gases like dioxins, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls in the atmosphere. Many people are flooding hospitals with respiratory issues. Long term effect on breathing such air is alarming,” said IMA district president Dr Sreenivasa Kamath.
Former high court judge Justice Kemal Pasha slammed the city corporation and district authorities.
“Quality breathing air is a citizen’s right. My daughter has some respiratory problem and I have kept her in a closed AC room. Like my daughter, many are under house arrest. A week has passed and people are still gasping for breath and blame game peaked as usual,” Justice Pasha said.
Echoing similar sentiments, sales executive Sony Sebastian said he is having breathing issues.
“I never had breathing issues. Two days back, I found it hard to breath and there was itching in my eyes. Later, I was advised to go to an oxygen parlour. We have no idea how long the toxic air will continue like this”, said Sebastian.
The air quality index (AQI) in the city ever since the fire broke out stood at over 300 PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) for the last five days, according to statistics provided by the state pollution control board.
The AQI remained between 324 and 465 ever since.
Putting that into perspective, an AQI between zero and 50 is considered good, 51 and 100 satisfactory, 101 and 200 moderate, 201 and 300 poor, 301 and 400 very poor, and 401 and 500 severe.
The Kerala high court had on Monday said the city was like a gas chamber due to the rising pollution levels.
The high court had registered a suo motu case on Monday and asked officials not to indulge in blame game but find a lasting solution.
On Wednesday, it asked the government to file a report on all decisions taken at the meeting chaired by the chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other steps taken to detoxify the city and set a timeline for it.
“The court intervened because it is the guardian of citizens’ rights,” the division bench said while directing the corporation to submit short and long- term measures to meet the exigency.
The court will hear the case again on Friday.
After the court pulled up the state government, CM Vijayan had called a high-level meeting on Wednesday and took a decision to not allow plastic waste to the yard.
“We are doing everything possible to mitigate the situation. We don’t want to create other waste mounds,” said industry minister P Rajeev.
The same day, the government had transferred district collector Renu Raj.
In her women’s day message, Raj said:”Hearing you are woman is a proud feeling. But you feel bad when it is said you are just a woman”.
Hitting out at the government, opposition Congress and BJP said making collector the ‘scapegoat’ will not make up for the alleged graft and inaction over the incident.
They sought action against mayor and the firm that was assigned for bio-mining of yard spread over 110 acres.
Many residents and opposition parties said the fire was man-made and alleged the role of private agency engaged for mining.