Kerala went through a jolt with three fire accidents which engulfed three locations of different nature. The blazes over three days in diverse settings call for urgent remedial steps and long-term action plans.
The wildland fire in the wild life sanctuary of Wayanad and in the tiger reserve of Bandiput has seriously hurt the wild animals and the ecology of forest. In the Vadakkanad region of Wayanad alone, over 25 hectares of forest were destroyed in fire. And the fire accidents in Brahmapuram plant in Kochi and the paint factory in Edavanna has made human living difficult in neighbouring areas and caused health problems to hundreds of people. The fact that it took three days to douse the fire in Brahmapuram and the whole city of Kochi was struggling in smog, explains how terrifying the impact of fire was.
Forest Department has the suspicion that the cause of the wild fire in Banasura hill in Wayanad, the scorch the land and then to encroach there. And the department has ordered an enquiry to find the culprits too. In the case of Brahmapuram fire, several including the mayor of of Kochi, Soumini Jain, have alleged that it was a planned one. The phenomenon of fire erupting at different places at the same time only strengthens the suspicions. As per the instruction of Revenue Minister, Principal Secretary of Local Self-government TK Jose, has asked Range IG Vijay Sakhare to conduct an enquiry. In the paint factory at Edavanna, where petro-chemical products are used as raw materials, it is reported that the factory did not take even the primary precautions of fire and safety. Thus the price paid at Edavanna should be seen as that for failure in ensuring adequate safety mechanisms.
The sad fact is that all the three incidents that happened in the last few days were man-made accidents. And all of them tell us that we never learn any lesson from experience and that we are not prepared to respect and regard nature or human lives. The fact that intense heat started gripping Kerala right in the month of Kumbham is not a case of divine wrath but a result of man's own culpable acts. The main villain in environmental temperature variations is wild fire and industrial waste and that causes 40 per cent of atmosphere waste. Increasing phenomenon of wild fire depletes the natural water sources of the forests and lead to parching of rivers of Kerala during summer. Further, the land is rendered incapable of retaining rain water during monsoon and thus the possibility of land slides increases. The greed to grab forest land and to raise more income makes wild animals in the forests and humans in urban equally desparate. Does Kerala need another flood to teach this to its people?
We show cavalier attitude not only to the forest but also to the safety of well-populated urban land. The Brahmapuram plant, sprawling over 100 acres of land and filled with three-metre high heaps of plastic waste, lies very close to Info-park and Smart City, touted as the flag bearers of new development. It is in the same area that the high-security Brahmapuram nuclear power plant and the fertilizer cum chemical plant of FACT are situated. In spite of being so crucial a location, it caught fire five times in the last two months. In the blaze on 1 January, the fire fighters had to work hard for a full day to douse it. But before these accidents happened, National Green Tribunal had conducted an inspection and given directions for immediate remedial measures. The Corporation, however, due to its own 'pressing engagements' could not take them seriously and resolve them. And what we see in the 'garbage' of controversy over this is nothing but the political cleverness to escape from such blame. As a matter of fact, without setting up an environment-friendly solid waste disposal mechanism, no civic body can overcome the waste crisis by entrusting the task to 'kudumbashree' units. But, to achieve that, they should be free from the illusion that waste treatment is a milch cow rich with corruption potential.
The fire in Edavanna has, as in usual in the aftermath of such accidents, occasioned issuing of orders to take strict action against buildings that fail to comply with safety regulations. And as happened before, in the coming days, official inspections will be conducted as usual in multi-storeyed buildings and factories, and action declared against some of those establishments. Later, under political pressures and due to official corruption, all actions will be dropped mid-way and will come to a halt until the next tragedy. By and large, the officials and owners generally give us the feeling that all our orders and safety mechanisms are intended only to be violated and for corruption. For that very reason, these fire accidents are clear warnings which tell us that unless we make our personal lives and social establishments free of avarice and inefficiency, we will be unfit to own and use land and forest.