Efforts on for rules to block ammonium nitrate use as explosive

August 18th, 2008 - 8:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Ahmedabad, Aug 18 (IANS) Efforts are on to evolve a regulatory regime that will end the free availability of ammonium nitrate, the explosive material that was used in the serial blasts in Ahmedabad and other cities recently.The centre had appointed a high-level committee in December last year with a direction to examine the supply, pilferage and movement of explosive substances.

Several meetings have been held but “we have not received any directions yet from the government on the issue”, Ajai Nigam, chief controller of explosives in the Nagpur based Petroleum and Safety Organisation, told IANS.

He said since ammonium nitrate is also a fertilizer, the committee could also examine the systems of manufacture and evolve a regulatory regime for its production.

Asked whether his department as the apex organization for control of explosives has offered any suggestion on the issue, Nigam said his department worked under the ambit of the Explosive Substances Act (ESA), which does not identify ammonium nitrate as an explosive and as such there has been no proposal from his organization.

He, however, said that his department participates in the meetings of the committee.

Sources, however, said that a day before the Bangalore bomb blasts, the Union law ministry had reportedly approved the inclusion of ammonium nitrate as a “special category” explosive under the ESA.

The inclusion of ammonium nitrate in the ESA could mean death penalty or rigorous life imprisonment if it is used for endangering life or property.

One of the suggestions made by the home ministry is that all retailers and traders should be made to register with district magistrates.

Another suggestion, according to sources, is that a provision should be made for compulsory registration of the smallest end user of ammonium nitrate at the village, taluk and district levels.

In other countries, including the US, Britain and Australia, there exist regulatory regimes for the use of ammonium nitrate.

In the US, under the Secure Handling of Ammonium Nitrate Act 2007, all manufacturing units are required to have unique registration numbers and have to report to the regulatory authority details of ownership, quantity manufactured and sold besides date-wise record of sales with details of all buyers.

In Britain, explosive grade ammonium nitrate is differentiated from fertilizer grade through use of coating.

The Australian government has made it mandatory for all manufacturers to register with the Council of Explosives of the Australian government. This council maintains a record of manufacturing, storage, transportation, export, import and sale of ammonium nitrate.

In Gujarat, the Gujarat Fertilisers and Chemicals Limited and the Gujarat Narmada Valley Fertilisers Limited manufacture fertilisers. Repeated efforts to get technical experts of these two companies to comment on whether the manufacture and sale of ammonium nitrate should be regulated proved futile.

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