Over 100 chemical storage tanks built at the Pirpav jetty near Chembur have been operating without approvals from the ministry of environment and forests for over 18 years. Each of these tanks has an average capacity of 200,000 kilolitres of oil.
Companies owning these tanks storing and discharging hazardous chemicals in dense residential areas on Mumbai Port Trust land include government-owned Hindustan Petroleum Corporation and Bharat Petroleum Corporation, Aegis Logistics, Chemical Terminal of Trombay and Sealoard Containers.
Replying to queries raised by a Mumbai resident under the Right to Information Act, the ministry said it had never given any approval to these companies, which is mandatory before such oil storage tanks could be set up.
The RTI reply, dated August 6 this year and signed by A Senthil Vel, additional director in the environment ministry, has now directed the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority to "examine the matter and provide necessary information to any RTI applicant directly under intimation to the ministry".
It has also asked MCZMA to inform the ministry about the action taken against the companies concerned.
A coastal regulation zone notification issued in 1991 had clearly demarcated the areas around the Mumbai Port Trust coastline, in which entrepreneurial activities could not take place from the date of the notification.
S K Hazra, executive president of Aegis Logistics, said the ministry notification is not applicable to the company's tank. "When we set up the tanks, it was not necessary to take permission from the Union ministry and only state environment ministry clearance was required. Also, our tanks do not fall in the CRZ area," he said.
The other companies declined to comment on the issue.
In March this year, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had issued a showcause notice to Aegis Logistics, CTT Ltd and Sealoard Containers for setting up the tanks and handling hazardous chemicals without environmental and CRZ clearances.
The MPCB board had observed that the port trust itself had no approval from MCZMA or the environment ministry for chemicals to be stored in the area. The report was based on MCZMA Regional Manager Ganpat Mohite's investigations.
The port trust had also violated guidelines from the Chief Controller of Explosives, Nagpur, by allowing hazardous chemicals like caustic soda to be stored at the Pirpav jetty.