Nine IAS officers including district collector of Ernakulam Renu Raj, has been transferred by the Kerala government. The orders came on March 8, a day after Kerala High Court expressed displeasure over Ms Raj not attending court proceedings related to a suo motu petition filed on the Brahmapuram fire incident. A waste plant in Brahmapuram caught fire on March 2, engulfing many parts of the district in smoke. The fire still has not been extinguished completely. The helicopters of the Indian Navy and Air Force with fire and rescue officials are operating at Brahmapuram to douse the fire.
Renu Raj has been posted as district collector of Wayanad, replacing Geetha who has been moved to Kozhikode as district collector. The district collectors of Thrissur and Alappuzha are also a part of state government's reshuffle.
The Kerala high court had directed Ernakulam district collector to submit a comprehensive affidavit by Friday over the fire incident that happened at Brahmapuram waste plant.
It also asked the district collector not to stay away from this issue. The high court further said that being a constitutional court, it is the custodian and guardian of the rights of citizens under the Constitution and protects rights assured to citizens under the environment protection act.
"Collector, we don't want to take you by surprise. Please ask your deputies to immediately go there. What is called the 'Precautionary Principle' is there. Please immediately take action on that," it told the district collector on Tuesday.
After tough words from the court, the district administration on Wednesday declared a holiday for all educational institutions including professional colleges for the next two days as a health precaution.
The holidays (from March 9 to March 10) will be applicable for Kochi Municipal Corporation, three municipalities and three panchayats.
Due to the fire, locals in Ernakulam are forced to breathe toxic fumes as an estimated 50,000 tonnes of non-degradable waste smoulders, according to environmentalists.
The Kerala government has asked locals to exercise caution and wear a mask. But the warning doesn't seem to be effective as the air quality index (AQI) across Kochi was in the 'poor' zone six days after the fire.
Brahmapuram is the only mega centralised solid waste management plant in the 14 districts of Kerala.