Stop using ammonia as coolant: pollution board

After a series leaks of ammonia gas in the outskirts of Kolkata, West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) directed all cold storages and ice manufacturing units on Thursday to stop the use of ammonia gas as coolant.

In a directive, the WBPCB said on Thursday that all cold storages and ice factories operating in urban areas must stop using ammonia gas latest by April 30, 2011.

"In case the units fail to comply to this order we will take legal actions. Give closure notice to the plants," said Biswajeet Mukherjee, law officer of the state board.

According to officials of the Board, ammonia is hazardous and an improper use of the gas may lead to leakage and death of many species.

The Board has suggested the use of HCFC-22 and chloro-flouro methane ChClF2 as a non-ammonia refrigerant any leakage of which may not lead to a serious accident.

The Board has also directed all municipalities that they should not give licence to any ice factory or cold storage if they do not submit in writing that will not use ammonia as a cooling agent at their plant. All panchayats and zilla parishads have been told that the existing units under their supervision must take consent from the state board.

Mukherjee said all municipalities and zilla parishad must prepare a list of units operating under their jurisdiction and send it to the board by February 28. With a list, the board can then monitor their activities.

On January 23, an incident of gas leak at Narkeldanga in northern fringes of Kolkata caused panic and people started leaving the area.

When firefighters could not control the leak, a team of National Disaster Management Agency had to intervene. Previously similar leaks in the densely populated Manicktala and Barrackpore areas had sparked panic among residents.

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