New findings have emerged in the ongoing investigations into the Giaspura incident, where 11 individuals, including five members of a family, tragically lost their lives due to toxic gas leakage from a manhole on April 30. The magisterial probe has revealed a significant oversight: the ambient conditions within the sewers were not accurately tested on the day of the incident and cannot be replicated now.
Nonetheless, the SDM (West), Harjinder Singh, emphasized that this does not render the existing test reports useless. “Although we cannot recreate the exact conditions, valuable deductions can still be made based on the facts already available,” stated Singh in his report submitted to Deputy Commissioner Surabhi Malik.
Prompted by the incident, the Deputy Commissioner initiated a magisterial inquiry and established a committee composed of officials from the Punjab Pollution Control Board, Municipal Corporation, Deputy Director (Factories), and the Commissionerate Police.
In the comprehensive 243-page report, a copy of which has been obtained by The Tribune, the SDM (West) highlighted inconsistencies in the interpretations offered by various stakeholders regarding crucial questions, presenting his own set of inferences.
The inquiry officer, without excluding any possibility, suggested that all factors, either individually or collectively, may have contributed to this major tragedy. The report recommended several remedial actions in light of this conclusion.
The report noted that hydrogen sulphide (H2S) poisoning was confirmed by medical and forensic evidence, as well as gas detectors. Furthermore, the presence of a deceased cat on the ground floor and a surviving dog upstairs in the same building supports the theory of a lethal gas blanket, with the highest concentrations at ground level. H2S gas, being denser and heavier than air, aligns with these characteristics and is the most fitting among the sewer gases.
The SDM mentioned that the police had seized suspicious items in containers, the composition of which was still awaiting test results. Similarly, the State Chemical Laboratory in Kharar was yet to provide the analysis reports for all 11 chemicals.
However, test results from the Punjab Biotechnology Incubator Laboratory in Mohali revealed abnormally high levels of iron (718 and 899 mg per litre) in the sewers at two specific manhole points near the tragedy site. These concentrations far exceeded the standard limit of 3 mg per litre, as prescribed by the Environment Protection Rules.
The magisterial probe also found that the sewer water at the tragedy points was more acidic compared to upstream and downstream samples. This does not rule out the possibility that industrial effluents had accumulated in these sewers over time, potentially due to structural peculiarities at these points.
The investigations into the Giaspura Gas Tragedy continue, and it is hoped that these new findings will aid in further understanding the factors that contributed to this devastating incident.