With more and more major coal ash pond breach accidents, Odisha is facing, Center has asked the State Government to tough measures in this regard so that such hazardous events can be avoided in near future.
During 2010 to 2020, Odisha has faced 19 major coal ash pond breach accidents, while there are 73 major coal ash pond breaches reported across the country during the decade.
“Coal Ash In India, A Compendium of Disasters, Environmental and health Risks” Report released recently lists out all the 73 major coal ash breach accidents reported from across the country.
Majority are reported from Odisha, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, which are the coal rich states.
Since September, 2010, Odisha is continuously facing coal ash pond breach accidents and continues to face such hazards till recently on 6 March 2020.
Coal ash pond breach accidents are reported in Jharsuguda, Angul, Sambalpur and Dhenkanal Districts, which are posing serious public health issues.
Mismanagement of coal ash has been linked with several environmental and public health risks and most obvious among them are ash pond breaches across the state.
Coal ash consists of arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium, hexavalent chromium and other carcinogens and neurotoxins.
While these major coal ash pond breaches have been reported, Talcher Thermal Power Plant routinely releases fly ash in the river, revealed the latest Report-Coal Ash in India.
Considering the frequency of breaches from such ash ponds and the toxic character of the ash, State is urged upon to develop regulations for the scientific management of ash ponds.
International Experts say that first principle of fly ash management is to keep it dry.
However, the practice of flushing coal ash with water is an adopted practice by the power plants due to its economic benefits .
Experts say disposal of wet ash slurry in ponds is the most dangerous method of ash management as ash ponds are highly susceptible to breaching especially during monsoons.
Wet slurry also causes leaching into the ground water and contaminates ground water and soil.
Dry disposal in a properly sited engineered landfill coupled with dust dispersal control mechanism is the best recommended practice.
It is high time that power plants are to adopt safe methods of disposing off fly ash to avoid contamination of ground water and soil.
As situation in Odisha is much worse as ash is directly discharged into water bodies on daily basis, it should be immediately stopped, advise experts.
Most importantly, the areas where coal ash pollution is reported those areas should be treated as these areas are contaminated and compensation are to be provided according the guidelines framed by Central Pollution Control Board(CPCB).
National Green Tribunal (NGT) has also issued orders in this regard earlier and State Government is needed to take up the steps at an early date, advised the Union Government.