A crack in the western part of the red mud pond of Vedanta Alumina refinery has leaked into nearby water bodies and hence into the Vamsadhara river.
Reports from Lanjigarh say a crack in the western part of the red mud pond of Vedanta Alumina refinery has leaked into nearby water bodies and hence into the Vamsadhara river. This happened following a thunder burst on April 5.
According to Mahammad Ashlam of KBK Samachar, the local news agency, the downpour lasted 45 minutes and resulted in a huge run-off of the toxic waste into nearby water bodies from a crack in the pond wall of the one-million-tonne refinery. Red mud or bauxite residue is a waste product of the alumina manufacturing process.
A video shot by KBK Samachar shows seepage of red mud into some water bodies.
However, Mukesh Kumar, chief operating officer, of Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (Val), the company that runs the refinery, says no such leak occurred. Talking to Down To Earth, Kumar says the seepage could have occurred from the second under-construction red mud pond. However, this pond is yet to be used since local opposition to its construction has halted work for some months after a case was filed against it.
Ashlam says: “The film we shot shows the hole from which the seepage occurred even though company officials obstructed us from filming the damage.” The company managed to repair the crack after three hours, he adds.
The Lanjigarh refinery has been periodically increasing the capacity of its first red mud to meet its requirements for waste storage. “Work is currently on to increase the height of the pond to 3 metres for additional capacity,” Kumar says. The original capacity of the pond was for 6 million cubic metres but this was increased to 8 million cubic metres. “Now we will have capacpity of 9 million cubic metres once the construction is complete.”
Worldwide the disposal of this toxic residue remains a problem. Vedanta was hoping its huge new facility of 18-20 million cubic metres would solve its storage problem. But there has been stiff resistance from villagers in Rengopalli which abuts the controversial refinery. They claim the seepage from the red mud pond has contaminated their water and affected their health.
Following the current seepage, worried villagers are questioning the authorities on what would happen in the monsoon when Odisha receives heavy rainfall. But Kumar says this is fear mongering since there was no crack at all.
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