It directed the Central Pollution Control Board to ensure scientific disposal of fly ash as per the statutory notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) under the provisions of Environment Protection Act, requiring 100 per cent utilisation.
The direction was passed on a plea by advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey who had referred to the incident on October 6, 2019 in which the ash dyke was breached due to the “negligent act” of the NTPC power project and more than 35 lakh metric tonnes of fly ash got into the Govind Vallabh Pant Sagar ”Rihand Reservoir”.
A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said that fly ash disposal in mounds and backfilling of ash in abandoned mines may be undertaken as per the CPCB guidelines and Indian Bureau of Mines, Dhanbad may also be consulted on the issue.
The tribunal upheld a report filed by a committee and junked the submission of the plant that the observation of the panel was completely “erroneous and unsubstantiated”.
According to the plant, the breach was plugged within 30 hours and the compensation of ₹10 crore was not justified.
The tribunal, however, said that mere self-serving denial in the face of report based on site visit by a committee headed by a former judge of the High Court “has no legs to stand”.
“Responsible organisations should refrain from adopting such attitude. We uphold the report of the committee,” the bench said.
The NGT also directed Anpara Thermal Power Plant and Lanco-Anpara power plants to stop ash pond overflow discharge into Rihand Reservoir.
It said the liability for environmental compensation in respect of other power plants may be assessed by joint Committee of CPCB and the state pollution control board within two months.
“NTPC, Vindhyachal may deposit amount of Rs. 10 crore as recommended by the committee with the state pollution control board towards interim compensation, deducting the mount already deposited. The plant may also develop RCC wall around the plant in the matter recommended,” the tribunal said.
The plea in NGT had sought directions to restrain thermal power plants in Madhya Pradesh’s Singrauli and Uttar Pradesh’s Sonebhadra from dumping fly ash, toxic residue and industrial waste in the Rihand reservoir and other water bodies.
The reservoir is the only source of potable water for the people of Singrauli and Sonebhadra districts. The reservoir”s water was contaminated, making it unfit for drinking, it said.
“Due to the breach, fly ash destroyed agricultural land and many cattle have also gone missing. That due to the collapse of ash dyke, as per the primary finding of Pollution Control Board, there has been huge loss to the environment and more than 35 lakh metric ton fly ash stored has been deposited in the Rihand Reservoir through the ”Naala’,” the petition said.
“The damage has been caused to the environment in various contexts viz ground water damage, damage of standing crops and the agricultural land have become unfertile. The mercury is in the air, water and soil of the Singrauli area is more than the prescribed limit. The adverse impact of the pollution is visible in the blood, hair, nails, legs, hands and body of the people living there,” the plea had said.
The petition had alleged that the power plants have not stopped their operations and are generating ash and toxic waste in the Rihand reservoir.
“Despite the specific directions of this tribunal, the respondents (power plants) did not take any preventive measures and it has become a routine for the industries which is causing serious damage to the environment, local people, cattle, fields, existing crops and water bodies,” the plea said.
The petition was earlier filed in the Supreme Court which on December 18, 2019, granted liberty to the petitioner to approach the tribunal.
The plea had also sought directions to Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh governments to take necessary and immediate steps regarding safety of the residents of Singrauli and Sonebhadra districts and to provide safe drinking water to the locals affected by the discharge of fly ash, bottom ash, toxic residue, industrial waste and others.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.