Maharashtra’s largest thermal power plant spewing poison over Chandrapur

Pollution control board does nothing except take bank guarantees from plant management

By Aparna Pallavi
Published: Friday 04 October 2013

The chimney stacks of CSTPS emitting thick smoke

Two units of the 2,340 MW Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station (CSTPS) in Chandrapur city of Maharashtra have been spewing poison into the air for more than a decade now, reveal documents accessed under Right to Information (RTI) law by Chandrapur-based non-profit Eco-Pro. Maharashtra Pollution Control Board’s (MPCB) records show that the two 120 MW units, built in 1983 and 1984 respectively, exceed the prescribed standard emissions several times over. What’s more, MPCB has bent prescribed air pollution standards to allow CSTPS to pollute more.

The facts came to light after Eco-Pro wrote to the state environment minister Sanjay Deotale in April this year, demanding closure of the two units, since they were causing pollution over an area of 7 to 8 km around the plant, which includes the whole of the Chandrapur city as well as villages like Durgapur, Kondi, Neri and Tukum, says Bandu Dhotre, who heads the non-profit. In response to the letter, Deotale wrote to the state energy secretary and MPCB, asking them to take necessary action.

Money spent in vain

MPCB’s response to this correspondence, made public by Dhotre, brought disturbing facts to light. It turns out that despite spending crores of rupees on the overhauling of its electrostatic precipitator system in 2003 and again in 2007 and installation of permanent ammonia dosing system for both units in 2010, CSTPS has failed to meet the emission standards in the two said units.

Stack monitoring records of the MPCB between 2009 and April 2013 reveal that emissions are consistently much higher than the recommended 100 mg per normal cubic metre (mg/Nm3). Between January 2012 and April 2013, the emission figures of the two units were 383.91 and 642.92 mg/Nm3 of suspended particulate matter (SPM) on the average respectively.

Emissions exceed standard
  • Permissible limit for emissions: 100 mg/Nm3
  • Average emissions from two power units: 383 mg/Nm3 and 642.93 mg/Nm3 SPM
  • Prescribed height of chimney stacks: 275 metre
  • Existing height of chimney stacks of two units: 90 metre

The report also said that the height of the chimney stacks of the two units is 90 metres against the current prescribed norm of 275 m, which also increases pollution from the units.

Speaking to Down To Earth, Dhotre said that MPCB’s report clearly mentions that the design of the two units, which were constructed before the Maharashtra Air Pollution Act of 1981 became applicable in 1995, is not suited to meet the air pollution norms, which were framed in 1999. “That is why, despite spending huge amounts on renovation, the pollution level has not gone down.”

However, instead of taking action to close down the units, MPCB has only extracted paltry bank guarantees from CSTPS, he lamented. In its report, MPCB has said that by way of action, it has taken a bank guarantee of Rs 50 lakh from CSTPS, and issued instructions for updating the pollution control systems by April 2013. However, in April 2013, when the condition was not fulfilled, the bank guarantee was merely doubled to Rs 1 crore, and the period for updating was extended till December 2013.

Respiratory illnesses spiral

“Till date, MPCB has taken no serious action against CSTPS for its many violations beyond imposing and confiscating bank guarantees,” rued Dhotre, “The body is evidently not bothered about the fact that respiratory illnesses are skyrocketing in Chandrapur city and nearby areas and the pollution needs to be stopped urgently.”

B B Patil, Chandrapur regional officer of the MPCB, said that he has written to the MPCB head office recently for stringent action against CSTPS for pollution from the two units in question. He, however, refused to specify what kind of stringent action has been suggested. “It is for the head office to decide,” he said.

Chandrapur is one of the most polluted cities in India, and in 2005-06, a Maharashtra government report revealed that 50 per cent of Chandrapur residents are suffering from respiratory and stomach-related ailments.

Dhotre said that closing the units will not impact production, as the power plant is undertaking a 1,000 MW expansion. The two units together produce just 420 MW. He said that environment groups in the city will launch a massive agitation if the two polluting units are not closed down soon.


Radioelemental characterization of fly ash from Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station, Maharashtra, India

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