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5-min boil that wreaked environmental havoc

Kiri Afghana (Gurdaspur) : A few minutes past the midnight of May 15-16, Munesh Pal, unit head of Chadha Sugars and Industries Private Limited, was jolted from his sleep with the news that “things were getting out of hand as thousands of quintal of molasses had got overheated and was threatening to spill over in both lagoons.”
Pal alerted the plant and production heads, as well as other mill officials living in a guest house in Qadian, a town nearby. But by the time the officials reached the site, the lagoons were already overflowing, and Punjab’s single-largest environmental disaster in recent years was under way.
Molasses is a thick dark-to-light brown liquid that is separated from raw sugar in the manufacturing process. It is a byproduct (and not a waste product) of sugar-making. Experts say it heats up automatically; and when it does, it threatens to overflow the tanks (or lagoons) it is stored in. Speaking to The Tribune, Munesh Pal claimed, “A spillover can be delayed, but not averted, by using various techniques, including one called ‘circulation’, which was tried that night. Once it gets heated, it acts like lava, and becomes difficult to control. And that night it overflowed from the lagoons and seeped its way through the earth (not over-ground) into the Kahnuwan drain passing by the premises boundary. The drain further leads to the Beas, less than a kilometre away.” More than 1.4 lakh quintal of molasses was stored in the lagoons. It is commonly measured in quintals, and not litres, because of its high density.

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