A toxic chemical spill in India’s coast has sent tens of thousands of people into a panic, and experts are warning of an impending crisis as more than 1,000 tonnes of toxic chemicals drift across the Pacific Ocean.
Key points:More than 1 million people in India have been told to stay indoors, including more than 300,000 in BengaluruThe country is battling a rising tide of coronavirus after two deaths from the disease in the last weekThe government says it will phase out all new coal plants, but some communities say it is too late to do soExperts say the toxic chemicals in the Indian Ocean are being released at a rapid pace and have caused severe health problems.
“We are seeing an increase in coronaviruses, with the number of deaths and respiratory illnesses in the coastal areas of India rising dramatically,” said Dr Harsha Nandwani, a scientist at the University of New South Wales who has been working with communities in the Pacific for the past decade.
“The response of the government is not enough.”
Indian scientists are worried that more toxins are being shipped across the ocean, and warn that this could be the start of a disaster that could spread to other parts of the world.
“A lot of the contaminants are in very high concentrations, so it’s a concern,” said Nandawani.
“It’s very difficult to find them, and that’s why we need to find the people to get them out of the water.”
“It could be a very, very big problem for the whole of India.”‘
We’re going to get very sick’The toxic chemicals have been dumped into the Pacific in an unregulated way, and the government has been trying to contain the crisis, which has now been exacerbated by the coronaviral pandemic.
But Dr Sushil Singh, a consultant in environmental health at the Indian Institute of Technology in Calcutta, warned that the government was “going to get quite sick”.
“It is quite alarming that these toxins are continuing to drift, and we’re talking about thousands of tonnes of them,” he said.
“These toxins are the worst of the worst, and if we don’t get rid of them soon, we could have a huge problem in the next few years.”
Dr Singh said the government had been slow to get rid and blamed the pollution on “poorly managed” dumping sites, but said more attention needed to be paid to managing the release of toxic substances.
“What needs to be done is to build better infrastructure, to get the facilities up and running, and to get some of the disposal sites cleaned up,” he added.
“There are lots of things that need to be fixed in the process.”
A total of 1.2 million people have been warned to stay inside and more than 150,000 have been ordered to stay in hotels and schools, as a precaution.
The Indian government says more than 250 sites have been inspected and are clean.
But some communities have been complaining that they have been left with contaminated water, with one of the largest spills in India causing a sewage system to burst into flames.
The government has promised to phase out coal plants in the country by 2030.
India is facing a coronavaids pandemic and scientists are warning that the spread of the disease could make the country a hotspot for environmental pollution.
“If the disease is allowed to spread, it will create an extremely dangerous situation where many more people die, many more communities will be affected,” said the World Health Organisation’s Dr M.S. Vaidya.
“And there will be an increase of diseases and more of them will be more serious, which could be even more devastating for the health of the country.”