Fly ash mixed with sewage flows through a drain (above) near the Adhunik power plant at Kandra near Jamshedpur, while a polluted rivulet winds its way through Pindrabera (top), one of the 23 affected villages in Seraikela-Kharsawan district, on Wednesday. Pictures by Animesh Sengupta
Jamshedpur, Jan. 16: Residents of 23 villages in Seraikela-Kharsawan have alleged that Kandra-based thermal power plant Adhunik Power and Natural Resources Limited (APNRL), which started production over a year ago, is ruining their lives with the toxic fly ash it generates, creating yet another conflict between industry and community.
The Adhunik power plant, located at Padamdih village in Kandra along Tata-Kandra road, only 15km from Jamshedpur, commissioned its first two phases of 270MW each, generating 540MW power a day since October 2012.
According to company spokesperson Anand Kumar, the power plant uses 3,500 tonnes of coal and generates 1,500 tonnes of fly ash a day, but he claimed they set up an ash pond to capture “bottom ash” and installed an electrostatic precipitator, back filter and dry-spraying systems to trap air particles.
But, local residents claim otherwise. They say the fly ash from the power plant makes its way to a rivulet that runs through as many as 23 villages dotting the district till it meets the Subernarekha, harming farmland, flora and fauna.
“Since ages, we had been bathing, washing clothes, cleaning utensils and even watering our farms with the water from the rivulet. This apart, our cattle used to drink water from the rivulet. But, ever since the power plant started functioning, the water has turned whitish,” said Karma Mahto of Dhatkidih village.
Villager Madan Mahto of adjoining Rapcha claimed many villagers stopped growing crops after they failed last year.
“We were very happy to see a power plant coming in our area, but our joy was misplaced. When the plant started functioning, our cattle died and people in this area turned to other alternatives for water as the rivulet turned toxic,” Madan Mahto said.
Residents of 23 villages recently approached Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Mahasabha, a leading tribal outfit that works to safeguard the interests of local people, especially tribals, to mount pressure on the company to stop polluting the rivulet.
A delegation of the tribal outfit met Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board’s (JSPCB) regional officer R.N. Chowdhury, but the board kept mum.
This Monday, the delegation met Seraikela subdivisional officer (SDO) Chandra Bhushan Singh, urging him to take strong steps to curb pollution.
“We can’t let villages be deprived of water they had been enjoying since ages. We will force the Adhunik power plant to either take necessary steps to ensure a pollution-free environment or else close the plant,” said outfit president Hari Tuddu.
He added that if the situation called for it, they would approach New Delhi’s Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
Seraikela SDO Singh confirmed the delegation had submitted him a petition, seeking immediate steps against the power plant that was allegedly polluting the rivulet.
“As this is a serious charge, I immediately wrote a letter to JSPCB’s regional officer, asking him to collect water samples from the rivulet and send them to a lab for a chemical test,” Singh said.
Seraikela SDO Singh said he would pursue the case and find out if the regional office of the pollution control board indeed collects the water sample.
“But I will recommend necessary action against the company only after getting the lab test report,” he said.
Company spokesperson Kumar, who reiterated that the “question of polluting any water body does not arise”, added they were looking into the grievances of the people and would try to get them resolved.
“As fly ash contains harmful oxides, it affects human and animal skin, and causes stomach diseases,” said environmentalist K.K. Sharma.
Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board regional officer Chowdhury could not be reached for comment despite several attempts.