Spot cordoned off; Section 144 imposed; scientists to probe

Spot cordoned off; Section 144 imposed; scientists to probe

Mysuru – A team of senior scientists from the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, Bengaluru, specialists from Forensic Science Laboratory in Bengaluru, scientists from CFTRI in Mysuru, officials from the Department of Mines and Geology, Fire Service Department and local Pollution Control Board officials will probe the cause of fire at Shyadanahalli near Belavatha on the city outskirts that killed 14-year-old Harshal (in pic).

Harshal died yesterday of severe burns he sustained in an open field that was used to dump chemicals illegally. He was stuck in loose soil that was burning following a high concentration of chemicals.

A host of VIPs including District Minister Dr. H.C. Mahadevappa, MP Pratap Simha, MLA Vasu and Deputy Commissioner D. Randeep visited Shyadanahalli to inspect the spot along with a battery of officials.

The vacant land where the incident occurred is located between Shyadanahalli and Belavatha behind RBI. The entire area has been cordoned off.

The District Administration has imposed Section 144 around the spot where the boy fell to prevent people from entering the place. Ban orders will be in place for the next 15 days. Banners indicating danger zones have been tied around the area.

While the expert team from the Pollution Control Board will visit the place today evening, other officials and the Police collected samples of the soil to be sent for testing. A fire engine arrived at the spot this morning and sprayed water to extinguish the fire under the ground. Though the fire was extinguished for the moment, hot water mixed with loose soil flowed from the ground later.

Curious villagers and residents of nearby areas crowd the place where chemical waste is being allegedly dumped. The entire area at Shyadanahalli where 14-year-old Harshal sustained injuries has been cordoned off with District Administration imposing Section 144.

According to K.M. Lingaraju, Senior Environment Scientist, Karnataka Pollution Control Board, it was tough to determine the cause of the fire as of now. “We have to examine the nature of the chemicals present in the soil. We tested the soil for its pH content (pH is a measure of the acidity and alkalinity) and we found it to be normal. There was no acid content in the soil,” he said.

Speaking to reporters, Dr. H.C. Mahadevappa said that he has directed the District Administration to probe all angles to Harshal’s death. “The probe will focus on the presence of chemicals and also the role of industries in dumping waste there,” he said. Regarding the compensation paid to Harshal’s family, he said that a decision will be taken at the government level. As of now, Rs. 5,000 has been released to the family.

The spot where Harshal was injured is seen being examined by the experts from State Pollution Control Board, CFTRI and other departments including the Department of Mines and Geology. The loose soil, when poked with a stick bellows smoke. Also, when a stone is thrown, red ash along with fire sparks come out of the ground.

According to B. Panduranga, Joint Director, Department of Mines and Geology, as there was no volcanic activity in the region, the cause will be indiscriminate dumping of industrial chemicals.

“Only a detailed investigation along with chemical samples will reveal the actual cause,” he said.

While the officials were collecting soil samples from the place, villagers were asking them if it was safe to burn cooking gas at their houses. People from the nearby newly-formed layouts were seen pleading with the officials to clear the area of all industrial waste.

Member of Parliament Pratap Simha has said that the State Government and the District Administration have the responsibility of providing compensation to the family. “As of now it looks like the cause of the fire is chemical waste,” he said.

April 17, 2017

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