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Petition against Nalco ash pond near village

Cuttack, July 21: A public interest petition filed in the high court has sought direction to stop construction of National Aluminium Company (Nalco)’s new ash pond adjacent to agricultural land and houses at Balaramprasad in Angul.

The PIL of Pitabas Mohanty and four others of Balaramprasad, came up for admission on Friday. The two-judge bench of Chief Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice S.K. Mishra has posted the matter for hearing after the receipt of a counter-affidavit from the state government.

“The court issued notices to the state government to file the reply within two weeks,” petitioner counsel Sarbeswar Behera said. The petitioners contended that the proposed stage-IV ash pond was being built adjacent to their hamlet, Badatalla Sahi, where 50 families stay in their ancestral homes. The PIL said the ash pond would increase both air and water pollution in the locality and endanger the life and property of the residents.

Nalco had two ash ponds. The embankment of one of them collapsed on December 31, 2000, and the slurry spread across a 20km radius, polluting the Nadira river, said the petition.

Consequently, the state government acquired 46.90 acres, including some private land, through a notification on August 25, 2001, and leased it out to Nalco to build another ash pond.

A third ash pond was constructed in 2011-12 on the acquired land, at a distance of 100 metres from the village, despite the local residents requesting the local MP, MLA, superintendent of police and Nalco authorities to take steps against it. Now, another ash pond is being built adjacent to the village “in wilful disregard of the report of State Pollution Control Board, who have inspected the site and submitted an adverse report suggesting precautionary measures”, the petitioners contended.

At present, ashes (effluents from Nalco’s captive power plant) are sent through pipes in the form of slurry to the ash ponds.

Fluoride content in the effluents has caused both air and water pollution in the area and people have been afflicted with bone diseases and tuberculosis, the PIL alleged.