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Clean chit to Sukinda mines

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OUR CORRESPONDENT   |   Bhubaneshwar   |   Published 27.04.08, 12:00 AM

Bhubaneswar, April 27: Orissa State Pollution Control Board has dismissed the report of the US-based Blacksmith Institute that identified Sukinda valley as one of the 10 most polluted spots in the world.

Instead, the state panel gave a clean chit to companies that were accused of releasing dangerous substance (hexa-valent chromium) through chromite mining.

Commmenting on the US report released on September 2007 that listed Sukinda as one of the top 10 polluted places of the world, the panel said the report apparently relied on secondary and tertiary information, most of which were “hearsay”.

“Though there are areas that require improvement, the overall management is reasonably satisfactory and the situation is not as bleak as was reported,” stated a panel report.

The government had asked the board to investigate the allegations and submit a report that was released recently. Because of the operation of mines over a “limited” area, certain environmental problems were “inevitable” in the Sukinda valley — stated the report. Presently there are 13 chromite mines operating in Sukinda that account for 90 per cent of country’s chromite reserves spread over an area of approximately 200sqkm in Jajpur.

As many as 12 of these, practise open cast mining, while one is underground. Open cast chromite mining generates huge volumes of seepage water. Even though chromium in chromite is in the trivalent state, hexavalent chromium is also formed due to certain complex reactions. If that is released untreated, it can contaminate water bodies.

Though the panel found that out of the 12 open cast mines, release of hexavalent chromium was a problem in nine, it said there were “occasional deviations” from the prescribed standard of 0.10miligram per litre in eevry industrial belt.

“Hexavalent chromium concentration in ground water sources fluctuates. Hence, the feasibility of a total prohibition of groundwater extraction and use of inland, surface water will be tested,” the report suggested.

It also came up with suggestions to ensure proper environmental management. These included stabilisation of overburdened dumps, improvement of roads, frequent monitoring of drinking water sources and immediate closure of sources showing hexavalent chromium contamination.

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