New Delhi: India has so far been spared of what Japan experienced in 1994-95 when a terror organisation, Aum Shinrikyo, used Sarin gas in attacks killing 12 persons and causing vision problems to thousands of others but the country is as vulnerable as any other part of the globe to “chemical terrorism”.
The Japanese terrorists had used a single front company to purchase 180 tonnes of phosphorous tri-chloride along with other toxic industrial chemicals to produce the deadly Sarin gas. It can be replicated anywhere if proper monitoring is not done.
Underlining such vulnerability and the urgent need for regulation, monitoring and surveillance, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), which has come out with a number of guidelines to prepare India to handle natural as well as man-made disasters, on Tuesday issued another report comprising certain dos and don’ts, asking both government agencies and general public to remain fully prepared to handle attacks carried out by terrorists using different chemical warfare (CW) agents.
Citing the example of Sarin gas attack in Japan and use of CW agents during World Wars, the report said, “All these amply illustrate the potential of chemical warfare agents to wreak long-term destruction upon humans and their environment.”
The guidelines include detailed instructions to monitor and perform regulatory checks of stocks as well as transportation of chemicals and methods of preparedness of all emergency functionaries in terms of protection, detection and decontamination exercises across the country.
Referring to aims and objectives of the guidelines, the report said, “It will form the basis for the ministries and department concerned, at the Centre and state level, to evolve programmes and measures in their respective disaster management plans.”
Stating that the capacity in terms of medical logistics and infrastructure at various levels to mitigate chemical terrorism was inadequate, the report said gaps existed in personal protective equipment, decontamination facilities at hospitals, updating of poison information centres, medical first responders, effective communication and networking.
To plug the gaps, it laid down the primary tasks for capacity building to respond to an attack involving weapons of mass destruction including development of human resources for search and rescue, strengthening of civil defence, integration of various aspects of disaster in school and college curriculum.
“These guidelines and existing shortcomings will help the government in taking precautionary measures in advance,” a senior home ministry official said.