Helping hands

NGOs mobilise support to provide redress to victims of a chlorine gas leak in Lahore

Published: Tuesday 15 April 1997

the chlorine gas leak in January this year has spurred action among various ngos in Lahore, demanding more protection for the victims. They have founded the Action Committee for the Gas Affectees of Baja Lines. The committee comprises representatives of ngos (Shirkat Gah, World Wide Fund for Nature, Aurat Foundation, Jiddo-Juhud), individuals, lawyers, doctors, journalists, some victims of the incident, as well as some people from the locality. The committee, the brainchild of Shirkat Gah, Lahore, was formed on January 9, a day after the incident, to condemn it and to protect the interests of the victims.

On January 8, extremely poisonous chlorine gas was being transported from an industrial unit, Greenwood Crescent (a joint venture concern between Greenwood, a us-based firm, and Crescent Group of Industries, Pakistan) to the recently privatised Ittehad Chemicals. Because of negligence of the two industrial units and the driver of the vehicle, the cylinders carrying the gas leaked in the congested Baja Lines locality of Gahri Shabu. The leak led to the loss of more than 20 human lives besides livestock. The residents of the area are still suffering from acute respiratory and eye problems and sore throats.

The agenda of the action committee has been two-pronged: to create awareness about hazardous and toxic chemicals and their irresponsible handling by the industries involved and the lackadaisical attitude of official agencies on the one hand and to ensure that those affected get due redress on the other. Accordingly, the committee has been pressing officials to provide victims with long-term medical help and maintain their health records to monitor the ill effects of the gas.

The committee's earlier efforts were focused on providing relief to the local residents. It gathered information from scientists and experts in dealing with chemicals and circulated it in the form of hand-bills, including measures to deal with the after-effects. The committee is now pressing for a tribunal to look into health, human and material losses arising due to the gas leakage.

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