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11 July, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Ammonia leak from Ashuganj fertiliser factory alleged

RAFIQUL ISLAM AZAD

Ashuganj Fertiliser and Chemical Company Limited (AFCCL) has allegedly been emitting ammonia gas, endangering public health and local biodiversity, said sources. However, Ashuganj Fertiliser authorities said that some ammonia gas might have leaked from the factory but it was not as harmful as claimed. Several international companies carrying out different projects adjacent to the AFCCL expressed their concerns over the health hazard to their workers and urged called for steps to contain ammonia emission.

In a letter to the AFCCL managing director, a Chinese company named CRRC alleged that most of its 700 workers, including Chinese nationals, have fallen sick because of the emission of ammonia gas by the state-run fertiliser factory and some of them had to take treatment at a hospital. However, this claim could not be independently verified.

The Midland East Power Limited (MEPL), a 150-megawatt (MW) power plant project of the Power Development Board (PWD), in a separate letter to the AFCCL managing director, urged him to immediately stop pollution of the environment and create fair, clean and safe working conditions.

Again, the project manager of Siemens High Voltage Switchgear Co. Ltd suspended the visit of its supervisor to the project site adjacent to the AFCCL for what he claimed severe ammonia gas leak.

AFCCL Managing Director Syed Shah Kamran conceded that some ammonia gas might have leaked from AFCCL but it was not as harmful as claimed. “I have received a letter from

MEPL and have already taken some preliminary measures so that excessive ammonia is not vented,” he said.

The AFCCL chief said MEPL’s officials came to him on Wednesday last and he explained the situation to them. “Ammonia is not being emitted at this moment. I visited the project site today (July 5) and saw that they (MEPL people) were working. Many of them are living at the project site. They did not complain to us today. It indicates that the situation is improving,” he claimed.

The AFCCL boss said, according to the procedures, ammonia should not be vented in the atmosphere. Since the machine of the AFCCL is a traditional one, it emits a small amount of ammonia if it is restarted after a break.

He, however, said modern machines like that of Shahjalal Fertiliser Factory do not vent ammonia as they have their own mechanism to deal with the issue.

In its letter, the MEPL authorities informed AFCCL that as a first-track (IPP) project of the PDB, it is working to complete the construction of the power plant in due time and most of its work is on its way to completion.

CRRC, the Chinese firm, is working as a contractor under which 700 people, including 200 Chinese nationals, are working on the project.  The Chinese firm in its letter said that workers, including foreign nationals, were now unable to work, and have started leaving the project site.

Sources said MEPL had written a similar letter to the AFCCL chief last year about ammonia emissions and their impact on workers.

In its reply, AFCCL informed MEPL that urea fertiliser is being produced by creating liquid ammonia, and ammonia gas is automatically vented as its pressure increases. Such venting of ammonia gas is a normal process; it is vented at a height of at least 25 metres in the air to preclude any possibility of blasts, said the letter. The letter further said since such venting of ammonia is a temporary phenomenon, it is not a very dangerous and severe problem.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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