Wednesday, October 8, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Fly ash flows into Sutlej
Power generation may be hit
Lalit Mohan

Ropar, October 7
A major ecological catastrophe occurred today with thousands of tonnes of fly ash flowing into the Sutlej river in the international wetland area here from a breach in the stage-1 dyke of the Guru Gobind Singh Super Thermal Plant Ropar (GGSSTP).

Sources here said that the breach in the dyke started at about 1.30 pm today. Till the filing of this report the breach in the 12-feet-deep dyke, spread over an area of about 200 acres, had widened to about 25 metre out of which thousands of tonnes fly ash was flowing into the Sutlej river through the Ghauli drain.

The ash from the dyke also filled the cable gallery of the coal handling plant of the GGSSTP. The cable gallery controls the functioning of the GGSSTP. The sources said that the damage to it could severely hit the power generated by the thermal plant creating a power crisis in the state. Due to a huge mass of coal ash draining out of the breach all efforts by the thermal plant authorities to control the breach proved futile till the filing of this report.

This was the second major breach in the thermal plant dyke. Last year on January 22 a major breach had occurred in the stage-2 dyke. A magisterial inquiry conducted into the breach had indicted the GGSSTP authorities for poor construction and upkeep of the dyke. Instructions were issued to the thermal plant authorities to improve the upkeep of dykes.

However, now another breach in the dyke has once again raised questions about the maintenance of the dykes by the GGSSTP authorities.

The Vigilance was also conducting an inquiry into the quality of construction material used in stage-1 and stage-2 dykes of the GGSSTP. A contractor, employed by the PSEB to construct a pucca structure for the escape channel of the thermal plant, had alleged in his complaint to the Vigilance authorities that due to the poor construction material used for the construction of the dykes, construction work of the escape channel could not be carried out.

The environmentalists of the area expressed concern at the large inflow of coal ash into wetland area. They said that at this time of the year thousands of migratory birds would start arriving in the wetland area. The pollution caused due to coal ash, would kill the fish that was a feed source for the visiting birds.

Besides the coal ash, which contains traces of heavy metals, would also contaminate drinking water. Many areas located downstream Ropar wetland like the Ropar town drew drinking water from the Sutlej or Sirhind canal emerging from the Ropar headworks. The drinking water in these areas was also likely to be contaminated due to the ash flowing into the Sutlej.

The thermal plant Chief Engineer, Mr P.S. Luthra, said that the breach was due to a dam failure. He said that due to the timely action by the plant engineers major damage to the equipment in the coal handling plant had been averted.

When asked about the impact on the power generation he said that there was not immediate impact. However, the exact position would become clear after complete assessment of the damage, he said.

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