State pollution board’s decision comes after three gas leaks hit Kolkata
West Bengal has imposed a ban on use of ammonia as refrigerant. The decision by the state pollution control board (SPCB) on January 20 follows three ammonia gas leaks from cold storage facilities which hit Kolkata and its fringe areas between December-end and January this year.
According to Prabuddha Nath Roy, chairperson of SPCB, industries using ammonia as coolant may either have to shift to the less dangerous gas, chlorodifluoromethane, commonly known as HCFC 22, or shut their operations starting May. More than 1,000 units in Kolkata use ammonia, of which only about 250 are registered with SPCB. Ammonia release can cause respiratory problems in people. Prolonged exposure can prove fatal. On February 24, West Bengal cold storage association met SPCB officials requesting extension of the May deadline.
Biswajit Mukherjee, chief law officer of SPCB, said, “We have asked municipalities not to give licence to any ice plant or cold storage unless they shift to HCFC 22.” Panchayats and zila parishads have also been directed not to issue permission to units using ammonia unless they obtain prior clearance from the board, he added.
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