Friday, September 29, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Thermal plant’s pollution hits 30 villages
By Sarbjit Singh
Tribune News Service

ROPAR, Sept 28 — Though the local Super Thermal Plant of the PSEB has brought “ light” to millions of houses across the state, it has also made life miserable for thousands of people living in about 30 villages in its immediate periphery.

“The plant is proving to be a slow poison for us because of the pollution generated by it and its other negative aspects”, said Mr Nirmal Singh Lodhimajra, President of the committee of people affected by the thermal plant .

Residents of about 30 villages are up-in-arms against the authorities because of pollution, waterlogging, and refusal to admit their kids in the school of the thermal plant and various other reasons.

However, refuting the allegations of the committee, Mr S.K.Thaman, Chief Engineer of the plant, told TNS that there was neither any water logging problem nor the plant was creating pollution. “All measures have been taken to avoid pollution in the area by the plant”, he adds. He said that other allegations were baseless.

But the allegations levelled by the committee have substance. The ash generated after the burning of the coal is converted into a slurry and drained out in dykes constructed for this purpose. One of the dykes spread over 350 acres is almost filled to the brim. The other is half filled and third which is supposed to cater to the needs of the stage - IIIrd of the plant is incomplete as the contractor left the work midway.

Villagers say that water seeps into their fields from the dykes creating a waterlogging problem in the vast area. The drinking water of hand pumps has also been affected. The Punjab Government had admitted this fact when about two year ago its two senior Ministers visited the area and sanctioned money with which a drain has been dug. The drain has provided some relief to farmers as their land has at least become cultivable to transplant paddy. Mr Surinder Singh Rattanpura, General Secretary of the committee, said that farmers near the plant could not sow any rabi crop because of waterlogging.

The top surface of the dykes filled with ash remains dry for most of the time in a year. Whenever fast wind blows, dark clouds of ash and soot emerge from the dykes turning the life virtually into hell for the villagers living in its periphery. “We cannot sleep in open. Our houses are filled with ash and soot”, say the members of the Committee.

Officials concerned of the Punjab Pollution Control Board( PPCB) when contacted by the TNS said that this problem was faced mainly in summer by villagers. “The authorities have been told to plant weeds in the dykes to stop the fast blowing winds from taking the ash along”. Already a large part of dykes had been covered by weeds mainly reed. A senior functionary of the PPCB said the authorities had also been told to submit complete action plan with regard to completion of the third dyke and about the other measures taken to stop the flying of the ash from the other dykes.

Experts say that the top surface of the dykes should remain wet to stop the wind from taking the ash along. Officials of the PPCB say that about 7,200 tonnes of ash is generated by the plant daily and about 1,900 tonnes is lifted daily by the two private factories to manufacture cement . There is a proposal to raise the height of boundary of the first dyke at least by five meter. It is about 15 meter deep. The dykes are spread over an area over 1,000 acre.

Other problem is about the release of water from the outlet of the escape channel by the authorities. Water released from the outlet falls in the Sirsa nadi about one and half km from the outlet. On way to Sirsa nadi, it passes through the fields damaging the crops. Affected farmers say that near by 100 acre of land has been washed away. Confluence of water released from escape channel and Sirsa nadi causes flooding of area and silting up of 300 acres mainly during the monsoon.

Mr Karnail Singh, a nambardar of Duburji village, told the TNS that his 10 acre land had been rendered worthless by water flowing from the outlet. The farmers have sought compensation from the Punjab Government for damage caused to their land. They say that the authorities should pay rent to them of the land used for draining out the water from the plant in the Sirsa nadi.

Other demands include jobs for those whose land has been acquired by the plant, payment of compensation to the farmers affected by waterlogging, admission for their wards in the plant school, round the clock power supply to villages in the immediate periphery of the plant, improvement of the roads in the area used to transport material pertaining to the plant and to stop the draining out of polluted water from the plant in the Mansali choe.

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