Bhubaneswar, June 10: The State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) is contemplating stringent action against the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) on the breach of its fly ash pond near Kaniha in Angul district.
“We have found traces of fly ash in the water of Tikira river, but the NTPC authorities are putting up a theory that their slurry pipe line might have been tampered with by vested interests or anti-socials causing the leak leading to the mixing of fly ash with the river water,’’ said SPCB member secretary Sidhanta Dash, while speaking on the sidelines of the `Waste Management Conclave – 2011’ here today, organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce.
Hinting at even an order to close down facilities causing serious environmental pollution through fly ash mismanagement at the NTPC plant, the SPCB chief added that a year ago both the NTPC and National Aluminium Company (Nalco) thermal units were issued warnings regarding possible danger from the fly ash pond. “However, while Nalco has already taken steps and its plan to contain the fly ash deposit through filling up a mining void at a site 25 km from their thermal plant near Angul, the NTPC is going very slow to start the process,’’ he said.
SPCB sources added that last year the authorities of NTPC were informed that the fly ash pond would hardly last six months and the latter must take adequate precaution. Surprisingly, on June 2 an ash dyke of the NTPC pond breached near Kaniha, creating panic among locals. The earthen dyke of the pond was spread to nearby areas. But as the pond was having less water, the fly ash slurry was limited to NTPC land without affecting private land.
SPCB officials visited the spot near Derenge village — about 60km from Angul — immediately after the mishap and found that had there been rains, then the situation would have been out of control. Even they have found the condition of the pond weak at many other places.
Meanwhile, the NTPC officials have diverted the slurry to the stage-II pond and put the embankment under repair. “The subsidence was caused due to shrinkage of the dyke,’’ was the comment of the executive director, NTPC plant, Kaniha, R. Venkatswaran.
“As the embankment is weak and despite repairs nothing much could be done, we hope that the NTPC authorities should concentrate more on the last year’s warning issued by us and try to complete the project of filling the fly ash slurry in the mining void instead,’’ said the SBCP member secretary, adding: “The mining void for the NTPC plant is 45km away from the thermal plant. They need to take the slurry through a pipeline.’’
With 24 per cent coal reserve of the country, local coal is generating 42 to 50 per cent ash after generation of power. Presently with the production of 7,000mw of power, the state is generating 20 million tones (MT) of fly ash in a year. But with signing of more memorandums of understanding (MoUs) as the state is ready to generate 45,000 MW of power, annually there will be generation of more than 100 MT of fly ash in future.
“Presently, we are able to use only 15 per cent of the fly ash generated from thermal plants for making bricks. But once the 45,000 MW power is generated, even after making all bricks in the state from fly ash and using them even for laying roads, only 1.5 per cent of the fly ash would be used, so the only process through which the flay ash menace could be managed, is by filling the mining voids and reclaiming them,’’ said the SPCB chief.
Saying that the reclaimed land from the mining void could be later used safely for afforestation programmes, construction of play grounds and creating parks and entertainment zones, Dash added that the proposed mining void to be used by Nalco thermal plant will help them to dump all their ash slurry burden for coming seven years. Likewise, if the NTPC people can speed up their plan, then they can also get several years of hassle-free dumping of the flay ash slurry without any possible threat for the local community.