Two dead as ash dam collapses in Madhya Pradesh
Five villagers and a worker at the site owned by Reliance Power were swept up in a flow of fly ash - a powdery by-product of burning pulverised coal - which travelled at least six kilometres.
Two persons died and four others were missing and feared dead after a fly ash dyke gave way at a coal-fired power plant in the Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh on Friday evening, the third such incident in the district in a year, a local official said on Saturday.
Five villagers and a worker at the site owned by Reliance Power were swept up in a flow of fly ash - a powdery by-product of burning pulverised coal - which travelled at least six kilometres, said district collector KVS Chaudhary. The flow of fly ash swallowed up whole fields in its path in Sasan, district officials said.
It was not clear how the dyke broke. Reliance Power said it was investigating the causes of the incident, adding the 4,000 megawatt (MW) power plant would continue to operate normally independent of relief operations.
Its unit Sasan Power Limited said, “We are deeply anguished by the incident involving the break in the ash dump yard wall at our Sasan Power Plant. The break in ash dump yard wall pushed the water leading to break in the boundary wall affecting some thatched houses and minor land parcel. We are investigating the reasons underlying the incident,” it said.
Bhaiya Ram, a resident of village Siddhikala, whose wife and two children were swept away, said: “It was all because of the power plant management that the incident took place. The administration should lodge an FIR.” The breach is the third ash pond disaster in a year in Singrauli which is “severely polluted”, according to the Central Pollution Control Board’ (CPCB).
“We have asked the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board to investigate the case. What we know till now is that there was an ash dyke leakage and low-lying areas were flooded with slurry. Whether any negligence was involved we will know after the investigation,” said Prashant Gargava, member secretary, Central Pollution Control Board.
In August last year, a fly ash pond breach took place at Essar’s Mahan Power Plant, leading to damage to crops of about 500 farmers in three villages.
In October, a fly ash pond of National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) was breached, leading to damage in 30 acres of land and leaving several cattle missing.
“This time the damage is extensive. The ash pond broke around 5.30 PM and the slurry entered 30 to 40 houses. Those missing may have died. The mud wall around the pond was weak and gave way. It is negligence,” asked Jagat Narayan Vishwakarma, an environmental activist.
“Singrauli as a region has nearly 23 GW installed coal-based capacity which more than 11% of the total installed capacity in India... The air they breathe is polluted, water they drink is contaminated and their traditional livelihood has been destroyed by coal mining,” said Sunil Dahiya, an analyst at Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
(Reuters contributed to the story)