Mayapuri market still does not have radiation check facility

Nearly four years after the Mayapuri scrap market in West Delhi was hit by a radiation leak, businessmen in the Asia's largest junk trade hub say no adequate preventive mechanism has been put in place by the authorities as promised after the incident.

New Delhi: Nearly four years after the Mayapuri scrap market in West Delhi was hit by a radiation leak, businessmen in the Asia's largest junk trade hub say no adequate preventive mechanism has been put in place by the authorities as promised after the incident.

Traders say business has suffered drastically after the incident and the market was grappling with indifferent attitude of government departments concerned, besides facing problems of lack of adequate facilities and infrastructure.

One person had died and 10 others were injured in the market in the radiation leak accident in 2010.

The green tribunal had set up a six-member committee last year to inspect the pollution level of the market and gauge the steps taken by the government to prevent the recurrence of the radiation accident.

The official said DPCC's role was restricted to provide a cohesive and pollution-free environment to the market.

"With our successful intervention, it is now compulsory for the shop owners to get a license to open a warehouse in the market. We are not entitled to provide any equipment to the market," the official said.

Goel alleged that government agencies often harass traders.

"There are many other places where the scrap is cut and processed illegally but only we are being targeted by the authorities. There has been a considerable fall in our work orders after the radiation accident," he said.

Goel, one of the members of the market's representative group which is fighting a legal battle with DPCC at the National Green Tribunal over the accident, claimed that no government agencies are helping them in addressing the problems.

"Our shops are looted at night by slum dwellers residing at the outskirts of the market. Police have never come to our rescue despite repeated complaints. The poor condition of roads here is a clear indicator of the indifferent attitude of MCD," he alleged.

A senior MCD official, however, rejected the claim.

As the tussle for environment protection continues, the shop owners claimed that the market has witnessed a considerable reduction in the level of pollution.

"A lot of polluting units have been shut down in the market in the last four years. Almost all the shops have installed chimneys and exhaust fans. We have cut down on burning wastes. But we are still facing harassment," alleged 62-year-old trader Jai Bhagwan.

In April 2010, hazardous radioactive Cobalt 60 that was auctioned off found its way to the market and caused an accident claiming one life and injuring ten others.

The radioactive material was traced to a Delhi University laboratory with the Delhi police charge sheeting 6 people from the university in the case.

Despite orders passed by the tribunal to set up scanners at the gates of the market and provide hand-held radiation detectors to the shop owners, no such initiative has been taken so far, claimed Vinod Goel, an office bearer of the Mayapuri Market Association.

"The hand-held radiation detectors are not easily available and are quite expensive. The authorities should provide the instruments free of cost," says 43-year-old Ajay Kumar Jain, who was injured in the radiation accident.

Jain, who is fighting a court case for reimbursement of his medical bills, says that there are many shop owners in the market who are still unaware of whom to approach and what to do in the case of repeat of the radiation leak.

"We are sometimes visited by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) officials who tell us about danger of a radiation accident. But there are many people who do not know about it. The awareness drive has not been effective," he said.

A senior official of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), however, rejected allegations that no concrete measures have been put in place to stop incident of radiation leak.

"DPCC has appointed nine zonal officers to check the polluting industrial units in the 11 districts of the city. We are entitled to pass instructions to curb pollution. We are not targeting any particular settlement. The zonal officers will be soon filing the reports of the examination of all the units," said the official.

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