In an exercise spread over a year, the Mumbai Customs cleared hazardous and unclaimed goods, some older than a decade, from its warehouses in the city. Separately, the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPt), too, cleared 70.184 tonnes of unclaimed hazardous goods from its port premises.
The two agencies were pulled up after a chlorine leak in 2010 pointed to gross negligence and non-maintenance of safe environs for hazardous cargo.
The clean-up drive was initiated following the July 14, 2010, incident at the Haji Bunder hazardous cargo warehouse of the MbPt in Sewri, where a gas leak from a corroded chlorine gas cylinder weighing 650 kg affected over 135 people in the neighbourhood, including security personnel, students, labourers, port workers and fire-fighters.
A complaint was registered, probe ordered and four senior MbPt officials were held accountable following a three-member committee probe, with the shipping ministry revising a list of recommendations to major ports on handling hazardous material.
The cylinders had been abandoned by an importer in 1997 and the port had since then struggled to auction them off.
The committee, comprising Ministry of Shipping Joint Secretary Rakesh Srivastava, Joint Secretary (administration) of the National Disaster Management Authority Sujata Saunik and Deputy Director of the Ministry of Environment and Forests Sundar Ramanathan, in its recommendations asked the government agencies to bear the cost of destruction of such cargo rather than wait for an auction if it extends the deadline and poses a threat.
It also recommended that the importers choice of refusing to take delivery of imported cargo should be repealed.