Korba in Chhattisgarh is an industrial area which has a significant number of coal mines and thermal power plants. Fly ash is a byproduct of the thermal power plants and has become a significant problem for the residents of Korba now. More than one lakh metric tonnes of fly ash is generated annually by the eight thermal power plants in Korba in Chhattisgarh which produce 6090 megawatts of electricity.
The notification of the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 1999 regarding the fly-ash utilisation says that the fly ash has to be used for backfilling of open cast mines and should not be disposed of in the ash dyke. But it has been observed that the fly ash is wholly disposed of and is negligibly utilised.
“As per the Environment Protection Act, every industry has to renew its licence annually. But here, the 440-megawatt plant of Chhattisgarh State Electricity Board (CSEB) is running without consent and licence for 13 years. What could be a bigger violation than this? Similarly, the CSEB has an 840-megawatt plant that is running without consent and licence for the last four years. We have been fighting a case in this regard in the National Green Tribunal. After filing this case, the environmental conservation board ordered to shut the plant. But the NGT put a stay on the board’s order. It is the responsibility of the NGT to issue an order to shut the plant. Instead of doing that, the NGT has stayed the order,” says Laxmi Chauhan, a senior lawyer and an environmental activist in Korba.
The health of the children of Korba is affected due to fly ash. They suffer from skin irritation and respiratory problems. As per the residents, the state government has ignored these health and environmental problems for more than three decades. Instead, they continue to open new avenues for public sector companies by expanding coal mines in the area. These new projects will further displace people from other villages and will also affect the environment by polluting the air with smoke from heavy traffic in the area.
“The fly ash is creating plenty of problems for us. Take our agricultural land for example. In one acre, 30 sacks of rice used to be produced. But now, due to fly ash, less than 15 sacks of rice get produced. We eat at least 100 grams of fly ash on a daily basis because it is there in our food, water and air. Due to fly ash, agricultural production has been affected, our employment opportunities are affected. To sustain, we have a cycle repair shop on the roadside," says Puniram Chauhan, a farmer of Jambahar gram panchayat in Korba.
There are several effective solutions available to mitigate the fly-ash problem in Korba, but the solutions can only be implemented when the government acts on it and follow its guidelines religiously.
The video Ashes of Power Land--A story of the impact of fly ash in Korba gives an overview of the violation of environmental laws by the power plants and the impact of fly ash on the community living around them.