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New town hope for pollution capital

- Key role for industry, mining firms in Angul

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 3: The state government is planning to set up a new township near Angul, which is known as Odisha’s most polluted industrial and mining belt and a strife-prone area because of displacement issues.

However, the government wants various industrial and mining companies to build the infrastructure in the proposed town.

Angul collector Aravind Agrawal has already been sounded out by chief secretary Bijay Kumar Patnaik, who has emphasised in a note that the new settlement should have all the modern amenities, apart from basic infrastructure such as roads, water supply and sanitation.

“The collector should suggest a few locations close to Angul for the development of a township. Availability of government land within the proposed area will be an added advantage. Acquisition of private land for the project may be made through participatory processes whereby the owners of private land become beneficiaries rather than victims of the project,” the chief secretary’s note added.

The Angul-Talcher belt, which has at least 13 big and small mining, steel and aluminium-based industries, generates huge revenue with three mega public sector undertakings — the National Aluminium Company Limited, the Mahanadi Coalfields Limited and the National Thermal Power Corporation — located there.

It is also one of the most polluted belts of the state, which was ranked the seventh among the most polluted industrial clusters of the country by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2010.

The Comprehensive Environment Assessment of Industrial Clusters, a report brought out by the CPCB in 2010, had also found the pollution levels in Ib Valley Coalfield in Jharsuguda, situated about 200km away from Angul, to be as critical as the Angul-Talcher belt.

According to the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI)’s parameter devised for the purpose of the study, areas with scores of 70 and above were considered as critically polluted while those between 60 and 70 were called severely-polluted areas. The scores were calculated taking into consideration pollution levels in air, water and soil apart from other high-risk elements in the industrial clusters. The Angul-Talcher belt scored 82.09, six-point less than of the most polluted clusters of the country, which is Ankaleshwar in Gujarat.

Following the publication of the report, a moratorium was placed on the setting up of new industries in these areas. It was lifted only after the situation improved following the execution of an action plan prepared by the Odisha State Pollution Control Board.

“The ban on new industries was withdrawn after the situation improved following sincere implementation of our action plan. But we continue to treat the area as critically polluted,” said member secretary of the board Siddhant Das.

Sources said despite precautions taken by the companies, mining has been primarily responsible for pollution in Angul-Talcher-Dhenkanal region. The state government has proposed a few more thermal power projects in the area, which may further aggravate the situation.

Angul is also among the hottest places in the state. The overall environmental situation, according to sources both in the government and outside, calls for emergency measures.