The environmentally fragile Sundargarh district stares at a massive future challenge for safe disposal of fly-ash as three mega green-field thermal power projects with combined capacity of 8,800 MW are set to come up.
Any coal-based power project produces a massive amount of fly-ash and so far, there has been no foolproof technology to fully get rid of its environmental hazards. Conservatively, 10 tonnes of fly-ash are produced in generation of one MW of power.
The National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) through its Darlipali Super Thermal Power Project in Lefripara block of the district hopes to generate 1,600 MW in next three years which would be expanded to 3,200 MW in the second phase.
Similarly, land acquisition for the 4,000-MW Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) of Power Finance Corporation in Sadar block has almost been completed and documentation is being prepared for “Request For Qualifications”. It would be set up on design, build, operate, finance and transfer basis. The MCL has also conducted public hearing for environmental clearance for setting up a 1,600 MW thermal power plant in Hemgir block. On becoming fully operational, these mega power projects are likely to produce 88,000 tonnes of fly-ash daily.
Environmental experts said safe disposal of fly-ash is going to be a major challenge as its unscientific disposal may cause serious repercussion and pollute soil, air and ground and surface water.
Fly-ash contains traces of heavy metals including mercury, lead, zinc, cadmium and copper that would be hazardous to local fauna and flora. Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) Regional Officer Niranjan Mallick said increased need of power to boost growth remains a reality but it simultaneously poses challenge to environment. Well-placed sources said the NTPC-SAIL Power Company Pvt Ltd (NSPCL) located inside the Rourkela Steel Plant (RSP) now produces 120 MW and plans to expand its capacity to a total of 250 MW. RSP also additionally produces 30 MW. Three ash-ponds of NSPCL have almost been filled up, while construction work of its fourth ash-pond at Barkani here has stuck due to protest by tribals. Sponge-iron plants in the district produce about 100 MW, while the cement major OCL India Ltd produces 54 MW. So far, the district has about 14 fly-ash based brick manufacturing units and their consumption of fly-ash is too insignificant.
Sundargarh Collector Bhupendra Singh Poonia said the Odisha Government is promoting recycling of fly-ash. All the upcoming power projects would be compelled to strictly adhere to the pollution control norms and the administration is also stressing on increasing the green cover to minimise the impact on the local environment, he added.