Power plant in the dock, third time

Pollutes Irai river in Maharashtra, kills thousands of fish

By Aparna Pallavi
Published: Sunday 31 July 2011

HOLDING a thermal power station in Chandrapur city in Maharashtra responsible for polluting a river, the state pollution control board has ordered forfeiture of its bank guarantee of Rs 5 lakh. Toxins released by the station killed thousands of fish in the Irai river, on whose bank it is located.

The member secretary of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) ordered the forfeiture on July 5 after residents reported that thousands of dead fish were floating in the river.

Suspecting an oil spill, residents stopped lifting water from an intake well on the riverbed. The intake well was a source of drinking water for 30 per cent of the city’s 100,000 population.

This is the third time in less than two years when Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station has forfeited bank guarantee for violation of pollution norms.

Last year in March, the plant had released more fly-ash than the permissible limit, causing air pollution. Later in August 2010, furnace oil from the plant leaked into the Irai river, killing water fauna in large numbers.

“Every time a violation is reported, bank guarantee worth Rs 5 lakh is forfeited. This is a very small amount,” says Bandu Dhotre, president of non-profit ECO-PRO. ECO-PRO, along with citizens groups in Chandrapur, is filing a public interest petition demanding registration of a criminal offence against the power station, says Dhotre.

Investigation by the pollution board, however, found no oil traces in the river, says MPCB’s field officer A N Katole.

Further investigations showed the pollution was caused by acid leaching from the unit’s rejected coal storages, which had overflown due to two days of heavy rain. “The power station was found guilty of releasing this acidic water into a nullah that joins the Irai river, which it is not permitted to do,” says Katole.

Katole admits that pollution control measures in the two units of the power station need to be updated. Despite MPCB’s suggestions, the plant has not taken any action. “Stringent action, like closure of the unit, has not been taken till date in view of the severe power crunch in the state,” Katole adds.

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