Coal based thermal power plants to pollute Vidarbha region
In next 10 to 20 years, the Vidarbha will be the most polluted region of the country because the coal based 49 thermal power plants are coming up in the region and as per the study, coal based power plants are considered biggest sources of air pollution and emit huge quantity of Fly Ash, toxic metals like Mercury, radio activity, Sulphur di oxide and Carbon di Oxide, a green house gas a major contributor to Global warming , which means that coal based power plants can pollute entire region and contribute to global warming.
The Maharashtra Government has considered to give permission to 49 coal based thermal power plants which will generate 35,041 MW of electricity out of which 5000 MW of electricity will be generated in and around Nagpur alone. In Nagpur district Power plants are coming up at KORADI, KHAPARKHEDA, BUTIBORI, MIHAN, BHANDEWADI, MOUDA, UMRED ETC.
At present MS Power Generation Company Ltd. has installed capacity of about 9300 MW out of which 4275 MW is generated in Vidarbha Region i.e. coal based power plants located in Nagpur, Chandrapur & Akola districts. Out of these only Chandrapur Power Plant is a Pit Head power plant and rest have to depend on coal linkage from Chattisgarh and Orrisa States. The present power requirement of Vidarbha Region is only 1500 MW and balance 2775 MW is transmitted to Western Maharashtra where demand for power is very high.
Total energy generated during year 2007-08 from thermal power plants in the state was 43,174 Mega units out of which 29,127 Mega units were from Vidarbha ie over 67% power was generated in Vidarbha. The power requirement of Pune district alone is more than power requirement of whole of Vidarbha. In last few years rapid industrialization has taken place in western Maharahtra but not many industries have come up in Vidarbha. Huge demand for power is now generated in western region but very few power plants are coming up in that region this means more and more power has to be transmitted to power deficit regions and to meet the same now Vidarbha is being scarified once again.
The new thermal power plants will require 16000 lakh tons of raw water per day and burn over 7,25,000 Tons per day of Coal and generate over 2,90,000 Tons per day of Ash. An article from The Energy Research Institute states that ‘Due to enormous quantity of ash content in India coal, approximately 1 Acre per MW of installed thermal capacity is required for ash disposal’. Thus 35000 Acres of fertile land will be required only for Ash disposal. Thousands of acres of agriculture land will be rendered useless as the soil will become highly alkaline. The ash slurry may flow in to water bodies and rivers making the water alkaline and unfit for drinking. For all these new power plants sufficient coal is not available in Vidarbha, therefore most of the coal is to be transported from Captive Coal Mines allotted in the State of Orissa and Chattisgarh or imported from other countries like Indonesia, Australia or Africa. The Indian mines are located over 1000 Kms. from Nagpur and the coal is to be transported by Railway / road. Daily transportation of coal in huge quantities on already congested Railway lines/ roads will severely affect the local economy as it is largely dependent on same infrastructure for movement of agriculture/essential commodities. The transportation of coal will consume huge quantities of diesel thereby causing further pollution and global warming.
Generating power from coal is one of the major reasons for climate change. Gases containing Sulphur di oxide are a major source of ACID RAIN, the occurrence of which in Nagpur and other cities is already reported by Meteorological Department. Carbon Dioxide is one of the major pollutants that is emitted from a coal fired thermal power plant ‘CO2 emissions per unit of electricity generated for most power plants in India is in the range of 0.8 to 1.2 kg per unit of electricity produced’. In other words each MW generates 8760 tones of CO2 per year. This means that new power plants will generate 30.66 million tones of CO2 per year. This will not only impact the climate but also impact the health of the residents. The flue gases emitting from chimneys are at a temperature of 150 degrees centigrade, millions of cubic meters of gases at such high temperature will raise the ambient temperature of the region affecting micro meteorology. This will be disastrous to the ecology to Vidarbha if the weather is affected and Monsoons skips the region due to atmospheric temperature disturbances.
Sources informed that according to International Chemical Safety Council of the United Nations an organic form of mercury- methyl mercury is one of the six most serious pollution threats to the planet. A 100 MW coal based thermal power plants can emits over 10 kgs of mercury in a single year.
This study shows that how coal based plants are dangerous for the region which can emits hundreds kgs of mercury from the power plants coming up in the region. As per study, the addition of even 0.9 grams of mercury that is one miniscule fraction ie 1/70th of tea-spoon is enough to contaminate a 25 acre lake and rendering fish contaminated and unsafe to eat. At higher level mercury can damage vital organs such as lungs and kidneys. Common exposures are through food and diet, additional exposure may occur through air and water.
The fly ash of certain Indian coal is radioactive which is a serious health hazard. Study reported by Scientific American in 2007 suggested that waste produced by coal plants is actually more radioactive than that generated by their nuclear counterparts. In fact, the fly ash emitted by a power plant- a by product from burning coal for electricity- carries in to the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy. The coal contains uranium and thorium, both radioactive elements. When coal is burned into fly ash, uranium and thorium are concentrated at upto 10 times their original levels. The study reveals that radiation doses ingested by people living near the coal plants were equal to or higher than doses for people living around the nuclear facilities.
Coal based Thermal Power Plants are not new to the region till date thousands of tons of Heavy metals, Mercury and radioactive elements have got deposited on the soil of Vidarbha. According to a study conducted by Ministry of Statistics and PI, Govt of India about the external impacts pertaining to air, water, noise, land, biological & socio-economic components, the total external cost of coal based power plant is Rs 0.1067 per Kwh ie Rs 9,34,692 per MW per year, now one can estimate how much we have lost till date and if 35000 MW of new power is generated the figure may surpass the backlog of vidarbha.
R B Goenka, Chairman Energy Cell, Vidarbha Industries Association while talking to The Hitavada raised the doubts about Koradi Thermal Power Station expansion of 660x3 ie 1980 MW. He took objections in the Environmental Public hearing held at Nagpur and also before Expert Appraisal Committee, Thermal Project, Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India. He informed that the Central Pollution Control Board document Parivesh-polluting industries has listed Koradi Thermal Power Plant as one of the most polluting industries in India, but Maharashtra Pollution control Board has not taken any cognizance of the same. The plant is located within 3 kms from Nagpur city limits and further expansion will adversely affect the environment of Nagpur. However while preparing the EIA report Nagpur is shown as 11kms away just to misguide the Environment Ministry. He said, no new power plant of such a large capacity is proposed in the vicinity any metro city, therefore the plant should be either set at the Mine Head or relocated to power deficit region where abundant water is also available. However, Government of India Ministry of Environment & Forests wide order no J -13012/87/2007-IA.II (T) dated 4th January 2010 granted Environmental Clearance to Koradi Thermal Power Plant expansion without verifying the facts.
He demanded to conduct fresh public hearing for environmental clearance for the proposed 3 x 660 MW coal based power plant where project affected citizen of Nagpur can decide their future.
Goenka while putting his point said that the present power requirement of Vidarbha region is only 1500 mw and balance 2775 mw is transmitted to western maharashtra where demand for power is very high. The transmission line loses are over 100 MW resulting in loss of about Rs 300 crore per year. He said, there is no need to generate additional power in Koradi and transmitting the same to far off places in Western Maharashtra. About 5 per cent of this power will be unnecessarily lost which amounts to Rs 265 crore per year. A huge investment of Rs 1,000 crore will be required for new transmission lines of 400 kv lines from Nagpur to Mumbai- Pune region about 800 kms away. These lines are to be laid on fields of thousands of poor farmers causing severe environmental damage and destroying fertile land. If this is the situation created by only by just 1980 MW koradi power plant expansion, what will happen if all 49 new coal, based thermal power plants are established in Vidarbha.
The authorities have failed to study the cumulative effect of these power plants to be confined to Vidarbha alone. The day is not very far when Vidarbha’s environmental pollution carrying capacity will be exhausted and no new industries will be permitted in the region, thereby once again depriving Vidarbha of Industrial progress. Recent developments in Chandrapur district where no new industries will be allowed as the pollution levels have increased beyond limits largely because of Coal based plants, are an indicator of fate of whole of Vidarbha and Nagpur in particular.