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UPL asked to pay for public forum on Durban pollution

Company accused of illegally storing hazardous chemicals that were released after its warehouse was looted and burnt in July.
A member of a spill cleaning crew removes dead fish from the river in the uMhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve in Durban on July 18, 2021. Image: Guillem Sartorio, AFP/Getty Images
UPL, an Indian producer of chemicals used in agriculture, will be asked to pay for the establishment of a forum that will keep the public informed about developments relating to a spill of hazardous chemicals in the South African city of Durban.

The so-called multi stakeholder forum will be set up by the country’s environment department and will request that UPL pay for it under the “polluter pays principle,” the department said in a request for public comment on the forum’s terms of reference on Tuesday.

UPL has been accused by the department of illegally storing hazardous chemicals that were released into a residential area and a river system after its warehouse in the South African city of Durban was looted and set ablaze in July in a spate of rioting.  Beaches were closed, more than 3 tons of dead fish were found and residents reported air pollution.

On Sunday, Barbara Creecy, South Africa’s environment minister, said the company and the owners of the land where the warehouse is situated, should be criminally prosecuted. Tongaat-Hulett owns the property.

UPL has denied wrongdoing.

The company said it has spent over R100 million on cleaning up and containing the spill and has a team of 20 experts reporting on a weekly basis to the department.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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