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Farmers: Ammonia gas leak from cold storage destroys potato crop in 4 villages

An ammonia gas leak is not just damaging to potato plants. Exposure to ammonia gas can be lethal.

An ammonia gas leak from a cold storage plant at Ghaghpura village (Uttar Pradesh, India) has caused potato crops across four villages of Fatehabad development block in Agra district to wither. The crop damage has affected some 500 of farmers in the area.

On Tuesday, farmers met senior officials and demanded action against the cold storage and suitable compensation for crop loss. Farmers also alleged that corrupt officials of the district's horticulture department were hand in glove with the owners of unlicensed cold storage centers and those violating safety norms.

The ammonia gas leak took place at Gargi cold storage centre. The gas began to leak on Sunday evening. The leakage was discovered only on Monday morning by which time hundreds of acres of potato crop were already damaged. Shocked farmers of Ghaagpura, Salempur Mudiya, Pura Banjara and Mohammadpur villages found their crops had withered. These plants will either die or their yield will be poor, they feared.

Farmers blocked the Shamshabad-Fatehabad road on Monday in protest. Later, they were persuaded to by sub-divisional magistrate Sunil Kumar Singh and police to leave the road and assured them suitable action would be taken.

On Tuesday, farmers gathered at Fatehabad SDM's office and handed a memorandum to additional district magistrate, finance and revenue, RK Malpani in the presence of the SDM and other officials. Farmers demanded swift assessment of their crop loss and suitable compensation. They also wanted that an FIR be registered against the cold storage owners.

(Click picture to watch video)

Video of an ammonia leak from a tank in a field due to a broken hose in Minnesota, 2012. Note: The life of the maker of this video was in acute danger. He is lucky to be alive...

ADM Malpani assured farmers of all possible efforts to get them suitable compensation soon and directed police to lodge a complaint against the cold storage management. Farmer leader Shyam Singh Chahar:

“Around 500 farmers of four villages are in a state of shock following the ammonia gas leak from the cold storage operating in violation of norms in connivance with horticulture department officials.”

“Such an incident can take place in other cold storage centers as many of them are operating without any license.”

“We have demanded that the district administration provide us compensation for crop loss and take action against the cold storage center concerned as soon as possible.”

“Senior officials have been informed that farmers are already in very poor financial condition, we will take to the streets if our demands are ignored.”
Later in the evening, Fatehabad police registered a case against owner and employees of Gargi cold storage center under IPC section 287 (Negligent conduct with respect to machinery), section 337 (Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and section 427 (Mischief causing damage).