The second unit of Namrup Brahmaputra Valley Fertiliser Corporation Limited (BVFCL) on Sunday morning shut down after a major explosion ripped through the ammonia urea factory.
According to sources, the blast which is said to be caused by a technician glitch occurred inside a broiler compressor house situated on the ground floor of the unit at 4.21 am.
The powerful explosion which could be heard at a 27-km radius destroyed several machineries and caused extensive damage to the fertiliser unit.
Locals said, “The sound of the explosion was heard even at Naharkatia, which is 27 from Namrup.”
Tileswar Bora, general secretary of the Namrup Fertiliser Shramik Union said, “The blast occurred due to a technical glitch. Luckily no one was injured. If it had occurred during peak working hours then it could have been disastrous.”
“The Namrup-2 unit where the blast occurred is already struggling to stay afloat due to very low output owing to outdated machineries and equipment. BVFCL is the country’s oldest gas-based fertiliser plant. As of today, the output of Namrup-2 unit is around 250 metric tonnes of urea per day compared to 900 metric tonnes produced by the Namrup-3 unit.”
However, there were no casualties as the night-shift employees were working in other sections at that time. The unit had been shut down indefinitely following the incident.
“We have been demanding that the proposed Namrup-4 plant be set up without further delay, otherwise the fertiliser plant will be forced to shut down its operation. Since the Centre has already given the in-principle approval for the project there should be no further delay,” said Bora.
“Work can be started only after the cabinet gave the final approval. We request the Centre to fast-track the project and save Northeast’s only fertiliser industry from shutting down,” Bora added.
Once considered among the finest fertiliser plants in the country, BVFCL has been gasping for breath of late due to various reasons.
BVFCL, which was set up in 1969, has seen a rapid decline in production in recent years with the three fertilizer units (Namrup-1, Namrup-2, Namrup-3) outliving its utilities due to its outdated technology and high energy consumption.
In 1986, the ageing Namrup-1 plant was phased out by the authorities while the two operational plants, Namrup-2 and Namrup- 3, set up in 1976 and 1987, respectively, have been producing less than 3.5 lakh metric tonnes of urea annually.
The output is far below its optimum capacity of 5.55 lakh metric tonnes due to which the plant has been struggling to cope with the surging demand for urea from major buyers like West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand.
All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) general secretary Lurin Jyoti Gogoi over the telephone said, “This is the oldest and lone fertiliser industry in the region which is fulfilling the demand of various sectors such as agriculture and tea and many more. But we demand setting up of the 4th unit of BVFCL as fast as possible otherwise, we will have to take agitational path.”
After visiting the plant, Abani Kumar Gogoi, assistant general secretary of AASU’s Dibrugarh district committee, told media persons, “A political game is going on in the name of development of the BVFCL plants. On February 13, 2018 union minister of state for fertilizers Rao Inderjit Singh in a meeting at Guwahati with BVFCL officials promised to release a package of Rs 100 crore for revamping of the plant. But it is yet to be fulfilled.”