With the advent of monsoon, people of various villages in Sambalpur are now living with the fear of flood from the ash ponds of various industries and captive power plants due to breaches.
Every year, breach ash ponds of companies floods villages in their periphery with vast sheets of water mixed with ash. Due to breach in the ash ponds of most of the power plants during the last monsoon, the farmers had to face immense loss when their standing crop was damaged and there was a lot of uproar then.
In fact, there were three incidents of breaches last year in the ash ponds of Hindalco Industries Limited (HIL) at Budakata which damaged crop in large tracts of land. Similar incidents were also reported from Laripali village where Bhusan Power and Steel Limited dumps its fly ash and at Nisanbhanga where Shyam Metalicks has an ash pond.
Since poor maintenance of the ash ponds of thermal power plants created havoc during the monsoon, Forest and Environment Secretary RK Sharma strictly instructed the officials of the plants not to be negligent on the issue. Similar instructions were also given to the sponge iron plant authorities to take steps for controlling air and water pollution.
Despite the directives, dumping of fly ash by the plants is yet to be streamlined. Locals alleged that on many occasions, plants acquired their land for expanding their projects, but used them to dump fly ash. “We are misled about our land that is acquired by these companies for expansion work. They tell us that the factories will be expanded and we would get permanent jobs in them. There have been instances when no project works take place and instead, they use our land for dumping fly ash,” alleged a villager, requesting anonymity. According to reports, Bhusan Power and Steel Limited tops the list with release of 4000 tonnes of fly ash per day followed by HIL, which generates about 2800 tonnes of fly ash daily. They are followed by Shyam Metalicks and Energy Limited (Shyam DRI) which releases 1000 tonnes while Aryan Ispat releases 600 tonnes every day.
Regional Officer of Odisha State Pollution Control Board Hemendra Nath Nayak said after the breach during monsoon last year, industries have been asked to strengthen embankments of their ash ponds and HIL has spent `10 crore for the job. However, Bhusan Power and Steel is still working on its embankment.