KTPS forms environmental surveillance committee to oversee pollution abatement | Mumbai news

MUMBAI: A day after the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) served MAHAGENCO’s Khaparkheda Thermal Power Station (KTPS) with a notice of cause over its failure to restore a 258-hectare ash pond in the nearby village of Nandgaon, the chief engineer announced KTPS announced that it was establishing a 17-member Environmental Monitoring Committee (ESC) to oversee measures to reduce pollution generated by the plant’s operations.

The committee is led by the KTPS chief engineer, officials in charge of fly ash and sewage pollution control, a representative from the NGO Center for Sustainable Development (CFSD) and Sarpanches from five villages affected by the pollution on the project, namely Chincholi, Bhanegaon , Chankapur, Waregaon and Suradevi.

Establishing such a committee, including local representatives, was a key recommendation of a November report – Polluted Power: How Koradi And Khaparkheda Thermal Power Stations Are Impacting The Environment – by researchers from CFSD in Nagpur, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra in Pune and advocacy group Asar.

Noting the significant impact of coal pollution on the lives and health of communities, the research groups called on the state government to delay the installation of new thermal power plants at Koradi Thermal Power Plant and the operation of a new fly ash pond in Koradi Nandgaon. They emphasized that MAHAGENCO must take immediate measures to curb environmental pollution, especially the discharge of fly ash into water bodies and the dispersal of dry fly ash as dust and particles. The report suggested creating an action plan with four months’ execution and setting up a committee of key representatives from surrounding villages, along with representatives from civil society groups and independent experts, to “monitor progress from the perspective of local people.”

The creation of the committee is a positive step according to Shripad Dharmadhikary of Manthan Adhyayan Kendra. “It should be remembered that our recent analysis highlighted the horrific environmental pollution caused by the TPPs Khaparkheda and Koradi and advocated the creation of such a committee. However, the committee must also include officials from the Koradi TPP. There are places on the ground where the contamination of Koradi and Khaparkheda cannot be separated,” he said. Dharmadhikary also stressed that members of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board should be included in the committee.

Earlier this week, the MPCB issued a cause-of-cause notice to KTPS’ chief engineer for failing to comply with instructions to remove toxic fly ash (a by-product of coal combustion) from the nearby Nandgaon Ash Pond. The MPCB had ordered the power plant in February this year to restore the 258-acre ash pond where fly ash was dumped without the necessary permits or safety measures in place.

The instructions were issued just a day after Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Aaditya Thackeray visited the site and met with communities affected by fly ash dumping on their fields and surrounding water bodies. “You must remove all the accumulated ash in the Nandgaon Ash Pond and restore the ash pond… to return to its original land state within 15 days,” reads the instruction issued under the relevant sections of the Water Law (1974) Aviation Law (1981 ). KTPS was also instructed to post a bank guarantee of 20 lakh to ensure compliance with this and other directives, which also include the permanent removal of the network of pipes near the Nandgaon Ash Basin used to transport ash mud.

However, with the Nandgaon pond still filled with hundreds of thousands of tons of fly ash, the MPCB has asked KTPS to “provide reasons why your existing committed bank guarantee should not expire for failure to comply with the Board’s instructions”.

KTPS was asked to submit their response within three days. According to information provided by KTPS to MPCB, a total of 59,792 tons of fly ash was removed from the Nandgaon site over the course of 2,055 trips, compared to the 1,25,000 tons dumped at the site since November 2021.

Leena Buddhe, Founder of CFSD, expressed concern at KTPS’s inaction, saying: “By MPCB’s own calculations, it will take 3 to 4 months to completely rid the country of fly ash. This means the practice will continue well into the monsoon, which poses an even greater health and environmental risk as the pond is designed so that the fly ash will definitely be dumped into the Pench River.”