Iron ore sludge pond breaks in Sambalpur

Paddy and vegetable fields and poultry farms inundated with iron ore slurry after wall of a steel plant collapsed

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Friday 21 January 2022
Iron ore sludge at Thelkoloi village under Rengali block in Odisha’s Sambalpur. Photo: Ashis Senapati

A portion of the wall of an iron ore slurry pond at a steel plant, belonging to Jindal Steel Works (JSW) Ltd collapsed January 20, 2022, leading to iron ore slurry inundating the vicinity.

The guard of the Bhusan Steel plant, at Thelkoloi village under Rengali block in Odisha’s Sambalpur district was reported missing, according to a local official.

“It is not clear how the slurry pond broke. We are investigating the causes of the incident,” Damayanti Sahoo, the tehsildar of Rengali, who visited the spot January 21, told this reporter.

“The slurry spread across whole fields and destroyed our vegetable crops,” an affected farmer of Thelkoloi, said.

Ranjit Ghosh, an official of the Bhusan Steel plant, said the company will conduct a probe and will also clean the farmlands affected by the sludge. “The damaged pond will be repaired and strengthened,” he said.

Manoj Meher, a resident of Thelkoloi, said the wall of the slurry pond caved in due to poor construction work. “We don’t want the plant to be shut down. All we seek is that the source of pollution be checked,” Ramesh, a local, said.

 “The damage is extensive. The slurry pond broke around 9.30 pm and the slurry entered nearby agricultural land, houses and poultry farms. The wall around the slurry pond was weak and gave way. This is sheer negligence,” Prasant Sahoo, a local, said.

Officials of Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) visited the spot January 21 to investigate the reason behind the collapse of the wall of the iron ore sludge pond.

The OSPCB will soon serve a show cause notice to the steel plant over the collapse of the wall, Ramesh Kumar Ekka, the regional officer of OSPCB, Sambalpur, said.

The incident has led to protests in the area, with the affected villagers demanding that the plant authorities provide them adequate compensation for crop loss and sludge removal from the affected areas.

In 2017, the wall of an ash pond of Vedanta’s aluminum plant in Odisha’s Jharsuguda district collapsed following which ash slurry inundated many acres of paddy fields in Katikela village.

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