Global Industrial Fires, Explosions, Environmental Pollution, and Human Suffering

ENVIRONMENT, 23 Aug 2021

Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

Déjà Vu from Bhopal 1984[1] to Durban 2021[2]

20 Aug 2021 – August is a month which is annually remembered for the American bombings of two major Japanese cities of Hiroshima[3] and Nagasaki[4] in 1945 forcing the surrender of the Japanese during World War 11.   While the great fireballs caused by the dropping of the newly developed atoms bombs caused immediate vapourisation of all biological and non-organic matter over a radius of 1.6 kilometers and immediately decimating thousands of women, children and men, flattening entire city landmarks, as well as causing serious radioactive fallouts, the effects of which on human suffering are still evident today, with a proliferation of various types of malignancies and other serious chronic medical ailments.  Although the destruction was observed till a radius of about 1.6 km but shockwaves travelled even longer distances, as the plane that dropped the bomb, Enola Gay, felt the shock-wave after flying for 18.5 km[5]. The two bombings killed between 129,000 and 226,000 people[6], most of whom were civilians, and remain the only use of nuclear weapons in armed conflict. This widespread, intended destruction was rationalised as a means to bring an end to the war in the East and can be regarded as the first industrial fire which destroyed humanity on a massive scale, since the invasion of eastern Europe by the Mongols in the 13th Century, from the 1220s into the 1240s

At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution 1[7], factories and chemical storage warehouses were constructed in close proximity to residential areas for ease of access to workplaces by thousands of labourers employed in these empire building facilities to empower the rich even further, and exploiting the “have nots”, even further.  There is little or no consideration for the environmental impact of these massive factories and storage facilities.  The problem is further compounded by corrupt government official who are entrusted with the compliance of municipal and city bylaws.  Every man has a price and in developing countries, where the multinationals develop a foothold, extremely easily, the price to achieve the objectives of the capitalists is very low, indeed.  This is borne out by massive industrial fires and explosions in countries like India, Lebanon and most recently in Durban, South Africa, during the racially motivated civil unrest, following the arrest and incarceration of the former President Jacob Zuma[8], for not wanting to appear at the hearings of the Zondo Commission[9], at the corruption and state capture scandal involving the Gupta brothers from India[10].

The current bout of civil unrest in Durban, South Africa, started on evening of 12th July 2021 and while the industrial fire was the work of arsonists and criminal elements amongst the Black people of South Africa, in major cities of Johannesburg and Durban, as well as smaller towns, mainly directed against the business enterprises of foreigners and people of Indian Origins in South Africa. The end result was extensive property damage, environmental pollution and medical ailments secondary to air pollution with toxic gases from the burning fires which lasted for over 10 days, before being extinguished by firefighting services.

It is necessary to examine these industrial fires and explosions to establish the litany of public health, environmental and industrial violations directly as a result of these industrial catastrophes.

In the minds of most people, not only globally but in India, as well, the infamous  Union Carbide fire in Bhopal is presently a dim memory of what exactly happened, except for those who are still suffering from the effects of the fire and subsequent environmental pollution, medically.

On Sunday, 02nd December 1984, the 100 workers on the late shift were in the process of making the pesticide Sevin[11]. This involved mixing carbon tetrachloride, methyl isocyanate (MIC) and alpha-napthol, in appropriate proportions. Over the next 12 hours, a series of astonishing errors led to disaster.  The MIC at the plant was stored in three partially buried 15,000-gallon tanks. When there was a problem with one of the tanks, nitrogen was forced in to extract the MIC. However, on this day, the process was not working correctly and both MIC and nitrogen were leaking. At about 11:00 p.m., the gauges began to indicate a dangerous level of pressure in the tanks, but the workers thought the instruments were malfunctioning and took no measures to alleviate the problem. By 11:30, the workers in the vicinity of the tanks were having a physical reaction to the leak, a feeling that many were familiar with because it happened with some frequency. Even then, Shakil Qureshi, the supervisor, decided to wait until after a tea break to look into the situation. By then, it was too late, and panic ensued as an explosion rocked the plant at approximately 12:15 a.m. on 03rd December 1964, an explosion at a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India caused the worst industrial accident in history[12].  Over 27 tonnes of the deadly gas, methyl isocyanate, leaked into the sleeping city.  The local residents woke up in terror, eyes burning, lungs choked, looking for their loved ones, as they attempted to flee the clouds of toxic vapour.[13]    The massive explosion and the resultant fireball immediately killed at least 2,000 people and caused serious medical ailments in another 200,000 when highly toxic gas enveloped the entire city of Bhopal.

Firefighters attempted in vain to use a curtain of water to stop the gas from escaping the plant. The gas simply flowed over the top of the water. A piece of equipment called a vent gas scrubber, intended to prevent toxic gas from spreading, completely failed to operate. In the midst of the chaos, the drivers of the emergency buses ran away instead of driving the workers to safety. Even worse, the plant failed to inform local authorities immediately, later claiming that the phones were not functional.

Bhopal, India explosion

People living in the vicinity of the plant were close enough to hear the alarms but ignored them on the fateful 03rd of December, because false alarms at the plant were so frequent. The cold weather that evening kept the gas close to the ground, as it silently swept through Bhopal. Residents who were already weak or frail were affected most seriously. Exposure to the gas caused vomiting and difficulty in breathing. When the gas hit the train station, stampedes resulted as people tried to outrun it. Victims flooded the area hospitals, which were not prepared for the onslaught. The best and most effective treatment was a simple wet cloth over the face, but virtually none of the medical personnel dispensed this information.  None of the six safety systems designed to contain such a leak were operational, allowing the gas to spread throughout the city of Bhopal[14]. Half a million people were exposed to the gas and 25,000 have died to date, because of their exposure. More than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments caused by the accident and the subsequent pollution at the plant site. These ailments include blindness, extreme difficulty in breathing and gynaecological disorders.

An exact casualty count was impossible to determine in the aftermath of this disaster but most estimates place the death toll at over 2,000. An estimated 200,000 people were affected in some way by exposure to the gas. Some were blinded; others experienced serious sleep or digestion problems following the disaster. About 10-20% of those exposed to the cocktail of toxic gases were still suffering serious neurological problems, such as memory loss and nerve damage, a year later.

When Union Carbide officials arrived in India following the Bhopal disaster, they were arrested. None were convicted, despite evidence suggesting that management was substantially negligent in the management of the plant.  Corruption prevailed supreme.

Bhopal was a city of nearly a million people in India’s Madhya Pradesh region between New Delhi and Mumbai. The Union Carbide pesticide plant was located in Jai Prakash Nagar, a particularly poor area of the impoverished city. Later, some critics charged that these factors were part of the reason that the plant had outdated equipment, lax management and grossly inadequate maintenance and safety procedures. The Union Carbide factory in Bhopal was doomed almost from the beginning. The company built the pesticide factory in Bhopal in the 1970s, thinking that India represented a huge untapped market for its pest control products. However, sales never met the company’s expectations; Indian farmers, struggling to cope with droughts and floods, simply did not have the personal finance to purchase Union Carbide’s pesticides. The plant, which never reached its full capacity, proved to be a losing venture, and ceased active production in the early 1980s.

However, vast quantities of dangerous chemicals remained; three tanks continued to hold over 60 tons of methyl isocyanate[15], or MIC for short. Although MIC is a particularly reactive and deadly gas, the Union Carbide plant’s elaborate safety system was allowed to fall into disrepair. The management’s reasoning seemed to be that since the plant had ceased all production, no threat remained. Every safety system that had been installed to prevent a leak of MIC, at least six in all, ultimately proved inoperative

The site has never been properly cleaned up and it continues to poison the residents of Bhopal. In 1999, local groundwater and well-water testing near the site of the accident revealed mercury at levels between 20,000 and 6 million times those expected. Cancer, brain-damage and birth-defect-causing chemicals were found in the water; trichloroethene, a chemical that has been shown to impair foetal development, was found at levels 50 times higher than EPA safety limits[16].

Testing published in a 2002 report revealed poisons such as 1,3,5 trichlorobenzene, dichloromethane, chloroform, lead and mercury in the breast milk of nursing women[17]. In 2001, Michigan-based chemical corporation Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide, thereby acquiring its assets and liabilities. However. Dow Chemical has steadfastly refused to clean up the site, provide safe drinking water, compensate the victims or disclose the composition of the gas leak, information that doctors could use to properly treat the victims.

Bhopal, India, explosion victim

Union Carbide stated that 3,800 people demised. Municipal workers who picked up bodies with their own hands, loading them onto trucks for burial in mass graves or to be burned on mass pyres, describe moving at least 15,000 bodies. Survivors, basing their estimates on the number of shrouds sold in the city, conservatively claim about 8000 died in the first week. Such body counts become meaningless when you know that the dying has never stopped, over the years and the sad legacy of a poorly managed industry, for empire builders lingers on in Bhopal.

Moving to present day Beirut in Lebanon, the city observed the sad, first anniversary of the great Beirut port explosion at the fertilizer storage facility. On 04th  August 2020, a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the Port of Beirut in the capital city of Lebanon exploded, causing at least 218 deaths, 7,000 injuries, nUS$15 billion in property damage, and leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless. A cargo of 2,750 tons of the substance, equivalent to around 1.1 kilotons of TNT, had been stored in a warehouse without proper safety measures for the previous six years, after having been confiscated by the Lebanese authorities from the abandoned ship MV Rhosus.[18] The explosion was preceded by a fire in the same warehouse, but as of April 2021, the exact cause of the detonation is still under investigation.

There were two major, identifiable explosions.  Around 1800 hours. on 04th August 2020, a fire broke out in Warehouse 12 at the Port of Beirut.[19] Warehouse 12 was waterside and next to the grain silos. The warehouse stored the ammonium nitrate that had been confiscated from a ship, MV Rhosus[20], alongside a stash of fireworks.[21] Around 17:55 local time, a team of nine firefighters and one paramedic, known as Platoon 5, was dispatched to fight the fire.[22] On arrival the fire crew reported there was “something wrong” as the fire was huge and produced “a crazy sound”.[23]

The first explosion, at about 18:07 local time (15:07 UTC), likely triggered by the stored fireworks, sent up a large cloud of smoke and a crackle of bright firework flashes, and heavily damaged the structure of the warehouse itself with a force equivalent to around 1.5-2.5 tons of TNT, the size of a mid-sized truck.[24]

The second explosion, 33 to 35 seconds later, was much more substantial[25] and was felt in northern Israel and in Cyprus, 240 kilometers away.[26] It rocked central Beirut and sent a red-orange cloud into the air, which was briefly surrounded by a white condensation cloud.[27] The orange-red color of the smoke was caused by nitrogen dioxide, a byproduct of ammonium nitrate decomposition.[28] The blast was felt across Turkey, Syria, Palestine and parts of Europe. It was detected by the United States Geological Survey as a seismic event of magnitude 3.3, and is considered one of the most powerful artificial, non-nuclear explosions in history. By the next morning, the main fire that led to the explosion had been extinguished.

The Lebanese government[29] declared a two-week state of emergency in response to the disaster. In its aftermath, protests erupted across Lebanon against the government for their failure to prevent the disaster, joining a larger series of protests which have been taking place across the country since 2019.

Beirut, Lebanon explosion

Apart from the extensive property and shipping damage, the casualties from the explosion were tremendous.  218 people were confirmed dead, and over 7,000 people were injured.[30] Foreigners from at least 22 countries were among the casualties. Furthermore, at least 108 Bangladeshi nationals[31] were injured in the blasts, becoming the most affected foreign community.[32] Also, several United Nations naval peacekeepers who were members of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon[33] (UNIFIL) were injured by the blast.[34] The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees[35] (UNHCR) reported that 34 refugees were among the dead and missing, and an additional 124 refugees were injured.[36] At least 150 people became permanently disabled as a result of the explosion.[37]

All ten members of Platoon 5 died at the scene of the blast.[38] Nazar Najarian, the secretary-general of the Kataeb Party, died after suffering severe head injuries.[39]French architect Jean-Marc Bonfils died after suffering serious injuries at his apartment in the East Village building in Mar Mikhaël. He had been live-streaming the fire at the warehouse on Facebook at the time.[40] Lady Cochrane Sursock, philanthropist and matriarch of the Sursock family, died on 31 August from injuries sustained from the blast.[41]

The government formed an investigation committee led by Prime Minister Hassan Diab, which was scheduled to submit its findings to the Council of Ministers of Lebanon by 11th August 2020. The committee included the justice, interior and defence ministers, and the head of the top four security agencies: the Armed Forces, General Security, Internal Security Forces, and State Security.[42] The investigation is to examine whether the explosion was an accident or due to negligence, and if it was caused by a bomb or another external interference.[43] President Aoun[44] rejected calls for an international probe despite demands from world leaders.[45]

On 05th August, the Council agreed to place sixteen Beirut port officials who had overseen storage and security since 2014 under house arrest, overseen by the army, pending the investigation into the explosions.[46] In addition, the general manager of the port Hassan Koraytem[47] and the former director general of Lebanon’s customs authority Shafiq Merhi were arrested.[48] Investigations are still ongoing.

Numerous conspiracy theories emerged on social media in the days following the explosion.[49] The main themes were that there was a significant weapons cache belonging to Hezbollah stored at the Port of Beirut, and that Israel wished to destroy those weapons. The theories said that Israel launched an attack, and the level of destruction took them by surprise. Israel, Lebanon and Hezbollah have allegedly all conspired to deny this and blame the ammonium nitrate stored in the port.[50] The apparent motives were that Israel did not want to be blamed for the level of destruction, Hezbollah did not want to be blamed for storing a significant amount of weapons in Beirut, and Lebanon is in the grip of a political and economic crisis and not denying the theories could lead to a significantly worse situation.[51]

Finally, amongst the notoriously notable, global explosions, the report would be incomplete if the explosions at the United Phosphorous Limited warehouse in Cornubia industrial area, north of Durban in South Africa were not highlighted.   The headlines on 25th July 2021, boldly stated:- “United Phosphorus Limited: Toxic warehouse in Durban part of special ‘fast-track’ state investment scheme[52]; firm fined millions in India”, by Tony Carnie[53].  The Indian-owned toxic chemical plant that was torched in the violence during the July 2021 civil unrest and looted.  The entire warehouse blew up and polluted air, rivers and sea around Durban, was part of a special ‘fast-track’ economic investment scheme by national government, with absolutely no specific environmental or hazardous substance approvals or any local government scrutiny.  This speaks volumes against the local regulatory authorities, noting the widespread corruption as unearthed at the Zondo Commission of Enquiry Hearings, against the former President Jacob Zuma. Back in India, the company has just been fined nearly R2-million after one of the company’s pesticide manufacturing plants was shut down by authorities following an explosion five months ago, which killed three workers and injured many more. The Supreme Court in New Delhi has also ordered it to pay another R20-million for operating a major plant for decades without valid environmental authorisation – while company lawyers have hounded journalists for decades for publishing ‘defamatory’ stories about its legacy of environmental pollution.

Containing up to 1,600 different chemical products – many of them highly toxic – the Indian-owned United Phosphorus Limited (UPL) pesticide and agro-chemicals warehouse which blew up in Durban on 13 July was part of a special national government investment scheme in which normal regulatory approvals are “fast-tracked” to attract investors.

Officials have revealed that no “specific” environmental impact study was conducted on chemical storage and potential pollution for the new UPL facility in Durban, as only one “integrated environmental assessment” was done for the entire Greater Cornubia mixed-use development project – a project that was designated and gazetted as a special human settlements Strategic Integrated Project (SIP number 24) by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission.

Speaking at a joint sitting of Parliament in October, to outline details of the government’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, President Cyril Ramaphosa said there would be a massive rollout of infrastructure that would “completely transform the landscape of our cities, towns and rural areas”.

UPL Warehouse explosion – Cornubia, Durban, South Africa

This would include 276 catalytic projects with an investment value of R2.3-trillion, while a list of 50 strategic integrated projects and 12 special projects had also been gazetted.

“These catalytic projects have been prioritised for immediate implementation with all regulatory processes fast-tracked – enabling over R340-billion in new investment,” he said

Greater Cornubia – which included a mix of high-density houses, shopping centres and light industrial areas – was one of these projects, where mandatory environmental scrutiny appears to have fallen by the wayside, or conveniently circumscribed.

And now, as the dust, debris and toxic chemical smoke clears around the shattered UPL warehouse, government officials and the company appear to be scrambling to pick up the pieces after large parts of Durban were engulfed by clouds of highly toxic chemical fumes and dust for more than 10 days, while a local river system and several beaches were closed after thousands of fish were poisoned by contaminated water poured out of the site, seemingly uncontrolled by any pollution prevention ditches or dams on the site. “Our Burning Planet”[54] has requested a copy of the integrated Environmental Impact Assessment[55] (EIA) and authorisation from government and the company, but has not received any of this documentation, as yet.

At a media briefing in Durban late on 23rd July, a team of government officials also confirmed that they were not aware of any application for a Major Hazardous Installation permit being lodged by UPL or the landowners. Nor was there any record of a Scheduled Trade Permit being granted for the facility in terms of the City of eThekwini by-laws which regulate air emissions and pollution from potentially hazardous plants. On whether a site-specific EIA was done, the officials said the UPL facility had been approved as part of an integrated approval for Greater Cornubia.

“There was no specific authorisation for UPL. It was authorised to the extent of operating within the auspices of the (integrated) authorisation,” according to Sabelo Ngcobo, chief director of the KZN provincial Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (Dedtea)[56].  Mr Ngcobo and fellow Dedtea environment chief director Mr Siphumelele Nowele revealed that the department was still waiting for a full list of the 1,600 chemicals housed at the now shattered UPL facility, in apparent contradiction of assurances by the company that a list of chemicals had been handed to the authorities last week. “The company did provide a list, but it’s not sufficient. It was not all the products. We need the entire list,” said Dedtea official Dr Zakhele Dlamini. Bruce Dale, senior manager for Pollution Control, Air Quality Monitoring & Atmospheric Emission Licensing in the eThekwini Municipality[57] said UPL was “not in possession of a Scheduled Trade Permit” although its chemical activities potentially triggered certain by-law permissions. Dale acknowledged that companies handling hazardous substances were required to make declarations in terms of the Major Hazard Installations Regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993.

“Unfortunately, it does not appear that there was any Major Hazard Installation applied for”, he said, although the Act specifies that every employer is required to notify the Chief Inspector of Labour and relevant local government officials about the erection or expansion of any major hazard installation “prior to completion thereof”.

Nowele confirmed that the fire and toxic air emissions had continued for almost 10 days, from around 2am on 13 July until it was finally extinguished at 5pm on 22 July.

She said the toxic chemicals that had spilled into rivers, soil and the ocean were regarded as highly hazardous and contaminated waste could not therefore be dumped into ordinary landfill sites.

On whether government was considering criminal prosecution against UPL, the officials said a pre-directive has been issued to the company in terms of Section 28 of the National Environmental Management Act[58]. Furthermore, dead fish were seen near the mouth of the Ohlanga River[59] estuary, northern Durban after a chemical leak at the UP warehouse in Cornubia as captured in a photo by Shiraaz Mohamed.

The author has attended to patients as part of his Community Health and Indigent Patient Services, with pulmonary complaints, following the fire at UPL chemicals warehouse during the recent unrest and the delay of authorities in announcing precautionary health measures have stirred up a hornet’s nest around health risks to neighbouring communities.

Meanwhile, research by Our Burning Planet has revealed that the Mumbai-based UPL pesticide giant has come in for severe criticism back in India for pollution, accidents, worker deaths and violations of its mother country’s environmental laws.

In August 2018 “defamation” charges against three Indian journalists were quashed by Mumbai metropolitan magistrate KG Paldewar[60], who found that they acted with due care and for the public good in reporting about UPL dumping untreated toxic chemical waste in the Daman Ganga River[61] in the Gujarat state.

The case against the journalists had dragged on for more than 20 years and was widely seen as a SLAPP suit (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation)[62] designed to intimidate or silence criticism of the company.[63]

Locally, Dewald van Rensburg and Susan Comrie as investigative journalists for amaBhungane[64], (Dung Beetles) has written an excellent report on United Phosphorus Limited chemical disaster: A gaping legal loophole, or jaw-dropping negligence?[65]

In a media statement[66] released on 31st July 2021 by UPL, as now renamed, the company stated that since UPL’s media statement of 19th July, additional issues of public concern have been raised which the company would like to address.

During the late evening of 12th July and early hours of 13th July, the UPL Cornubia[67] warehouse was vandalised and set on fire by looters connected with the general unrest that spread through the greater Durban area.

Reports suggest multiple fires were set, engulfing the warehouse in its entirety and resulting in the roof collapsing. The fire department’s initial response to the fire was delayed for a variety of reasons, including threats to the safety of their personnel and barricades that delayed access, and strained resources in dealing with the multitude of events at the time.

When the fire department was eventually able to attend to it, the fire was so advanced and in places covered by so much rubble and sheet metal from the destroyed warehouse that it took several days to access certain areas and extinguish the smoldering debris. Many of the water-based products in the warehouse were atomised during the blaze, creating a dense plume of smoke and fumes that caused distress to many people in the neighbouring areas.

In view of the fact that a significant volume of water was used to extinguish the fire, and due to the delayed response of the spill response cleaning services amid the ongoing unrest, the product that was not vapourised and the water from the fire operations overwhelmed the containment system and escaped into the environment.

Water contaminated by a combination of these products, including pesticides, ran down the stormwater system, surrounding platform, and down valley lines into the Ohlanga River, damaging plants and marine organisms in its path.

UPL immediately notified all the relevant authorities, once the extent and nature of the damage became known, and issued public advisories, based on the advice of its experts.

UPL also set in motion a containment strategy based on the advice of acknowledged experts and the work of two specialist firms. They are engaged in decontaminating the warehouse and river system. The Municipality closed the affected beaches and issued warnings about the harvesting of marine life in the vicinity.

The fire has been extinguished, and the containment process is continuing. Sampling is being conducted in all of the important water bodies, along with air sampling. The relevant national, provincial and local authorities are extensively involved in this work. UPL has been commended by them at a press briefing held on July 23 for its co-operation and effective responses to date.

A recording of that briefing can be found seen on YouTube[68]

Following the advise to the appropriate authorities and the public, UPL’s immediate priority was to support the response teams in extinguishing the fire and preventing any further degradation to the environment. This has required the intensive and urgent efforts of the senior staff of UPL to co-ordinate the work of its many consultants and ensure that the emergency was contained and managed.

UPL was advised, prior to opening, that the leasing and operating of a warehouse for its products did not trigger an environmental assessment under the NEMA regulations. That advice has, since the fire, been confirmed by its legal consultants. In relation to the risk assessment requirements under the Major Hazardous Installation[69] (MHI) Regulations, UPL took the view that its warehouse operation did not constitute an MHI and that it did not need to conduct a risk assessment. That view has now also been confirmed by its legal consultant.

The Cornubia warehouse was located in an appropriately zoned facility that, in the opinion of its technical staff and external consultants, was fit for purpose. The facility was equipped with the necessary infrastructure to manage incidents of the kind reasonably expected.

This facility involved no manufacturing of any kind. The products in the warehouse were all safely contained and packaged, and were overwhelmingly water-based, with little to low fire risk. The prospects of a cataclysmic fire, in the absence of the extraordinary circumstances that occurred in this instance, was extremely low.

The designed fire and containment systems were more than adequate, in ordinary circumstances, to have enabled the facility and the relevant authorities to contain a fire and any associated spillage of product.

UPL has shared all the required information with the relevant authorities and the company promptly made all the necessary statutory notifications. As part of its regular reporting, the company had kept the authorities informed about the nature of the products stored in the warehouse. All of the products in the warehouse were proprietary products approved for use in South Africa by the Health Department and by the Department of Agriculture in terms of Act No.36 of 1947.

UPL has been completely committed to speedily contain the spilled product, and to make all efforts to eliminate it from the environment. This may take some time, but no expense or expertise is being spared. UPL takes seriously its responsibility for its products, regardless of the fact that the event was entirely beyond its control.

UPL will continue to issue periodic updates on matters of public importance. The statement concludes by referring any queries relating to the opening of beaches and other public areas, to the city authorities.

The Bottom Line is that in developing countries, where high levels of corruption are rife. as in India, multinationals attempt to obfuscate the law and look for every available loopholes in the system to justify their nefarious endeavours, regardless of the effects on massive contamination of land, air and waters, including rivers, lakes and seas.  The present wave of large-scale pollution from the UPL warehouse fireball and explosions, in northern Durban, have now even affected communities and will, certainly weaken the resistance of patients, making them more vulnerable to SARS Cov-2 infections.

It is also of great concern that these highly toxic chemicals as housed in the burnt down UPL warehouse are routinely use by South African farmers indiscriminately, whereas they are banned in other countries. These pollutants are possibly linked to the spikes in SAR Cov-2 infections in the affected communities. In the interim, the multinationals and the regulatory authorities are not acting decisively to contain the pollution and more importantly from preventing a recurrence, as shown by the lesson learnt from India and Beirut.  The author has already approached the eThekwini Municipality Health Department and the Chief Clerk wanted me to violate the POPIA Act[70] as applicable to patients.  I was promised that a senior officer will call me, but alas I have not received any communications as yet, by phone, nor e-mail.




























[14] Five Past Midnight in Bhopal. Dominique Lapierre & Javier Moro. (Warner Books, 2002)




[16] Factsheet: A New Generation of Monstrous Births.


[17] Toxic Present Toxic Future. A report published in January 2002 by the Fact-Finding Mission on Bhopal (FFMB).




[19] El Deeb, Sarah; Mroue, Bassem (6 August 2020). “In a horrific instant, a burst of power that ravaged Beirut”. Associated Press.




[21] Azhari, Timour (August 2020). “How Beirut firefighters were sent into disaster”. Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020.




[23] Azhari, Timour (August 2020). “How Beirut firefighters were sent into disaster”. Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020. Retrieved 8 August 2020.


[24] Hubbard, Ben; Abi-Habib, Maria (5 August 2020). “Deadly Explosions Shatter Beirut, Lebanon”. The New York Times.


[25] Bressan, David. “Beirut Explosion Generates Seismic Waves Equivalent Of A Magnitude 3.3 Earthquake”. Forbes.


[26] “Like an earthquake’: Huge explosion rips through Beirut captured on video”. Hindustan Times. 4 August 2020.


[27] Pickrell, Ryan. “Shocking videos capture massive explosion that rocked the Lebanese capital of Beirut”. Business Insider. Archived from the original on 5 August 2020.


[28] “What is ammonium nitrate and what happens when it explodes?”. 5 August 2020. Archived








[32] 1 Pakistani child died 4 in critical condition in Beirut blast”. Daily Times. 5 August 2020.




[34] “Beirut blast: 4 Bangladeshis killed, 21 Bangladesh Navy crew injured”. Dhaka Tribune. 5 August 2020.




[36] Refugees, United Nations High Commissioner for. “Beirut blast death toll includes dozens of refugees, emergency response ramps up”. UNHCR. Archived from the original on 12 August 2020.


[37] Scarred for life: Beirut blast victims and life-altering wounds”. Al Jazeera. 25 August 2020.


[38] Kohnavard, Nafiseh (16 August 2020). “Beirut explosion: The story of Platoon Five”. BBC News. Archived from the original on 30 August 2020.


[39] Live updates: Lebanese capital rocked by huge explosion”. CNN. 4 August 2020.


[40] L’architecte français Jean-Marc Bonfils est décédé lors des explosions à Beyrouth”. L’Obs. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020.


[41] “Libano: morta filantropa Yvonne Sursock Cochrane coinvolta in esplosione Beirut”. Agenzia Nova (in Italian). 31 August 2020.


[42] Azhari, Timour (6 August 2020). “Lebanese officials deflect blame as anger grows over Beirut blast”. Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 21 September 2020


[43] Georgy, Michael; Francis, Ellen (7 August 2020). “Lebanon sees possible ‘external interference’ in port blast”. Reuters. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020




[45] “Lebanon president rejects calls for international blast probe”. Arab News. 7 August 2020.


[46] “Beirut port manager among 16 held in blast probe, judicial source says”. Reuters. 7 August 2020.




[48] Beirut Port Manager & 15 Others Were Just Arrested. 7 August 2020.


[49] Spring, Marianna (5 August 2020). “Beirut explosion: How conspiracy theories spread on social media”. BBC News Online. Retrieved 4 August 2021.





[51] Harel, Amos (12 August 2020). “As Hezbollah Takes Heat for Beirut Blast, Israel Takes Calculated Risk”. Haaretz. Retrieved 4 August 2021.






















[62] Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation


















Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits):
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.
Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All



This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 23 Aug 2021.

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