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As Kochi continues to inhale toxic fumes, district chapter of IMA comes out with health warning

Minister M.B. Rajesh says 80 per cent of the fire has been doused


Inhaling smoke from the still-smouldering fire at the Brahmapuram waste plant in Kerala's Kochi may lead to health complications, Indian Medical Association Kochi chapter warned.

The fire broke out at the Kochi city corporation-run waste treatment plant on March 2 and by March 5 the district administration of Ernakulam declared a holiday on Monday for children in all schools in areas under Kochi corporation and the nearby municipalities and gram panchayats, as huge and thick clouds of toxic smoke billowing from the site engulfed the city.

According to Malayala Manorama, IMA Kochi chapter said although it is not possible to predict the long-term health implications of inhaling the toxic smoke, it is important to reduce the spread and intensity of the smoke so that it does not lead to health complications in the future.

IMA Kochi chapter president Dr S. Srinivasa Kamath and secretary George Thukalan urged the state government to take initiatives to ensure that such a tragedy does not happen in the future. The health department may be staring at an unpresidential situation if such incidents are repeated, they warned.

Even as the state government asked people to use N95 masks while stepping out of their homes, the Kochi chapter of IMA said while N95 masks can stop people from inhaling particulate matter, they cannot help in the case of fumes.

“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 of this is really alarming,” Hindustan Times had quoted Dr Kamath as saying.

According to reports, as many as 678 people sought treatment for illnesses caused by the smoke, while 421 people reached the camps that have been set up.

80 pc of fire doused

Meanwhile, Local Self-Government Department Minister M.B. Rajesh said 80 per cent of the fire has been doused.

Rajesh, who visited the plant along with Industries Minister P. Rajeev said steps have been taken to ensure that such incidents do not happen at the plant in the future, and added that an action plan to end the city's waste disposal problem will be implemented on war footing.

Meanwhile, taking serious note of the administration's failure in tackling the fire, Kerala High Court, on Friday, appointed a committee to monitor the situation.

The committee comprises the Ernakulam district collector, Pollution Control Board officials and the secretary of the Kerala State Legal Services Authority.

A bench of justices S.V. Bhatti and Basant Balaji directed the state Chief Secretary to inform the court in detail the steps taken by the government to tackle the issue. 

The HC also directed the government to prepare an action plan to deal with the solid waste treatment.

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