500 farmers lose crops after fly ash spills from Essar’s MP plant, company cries ‘sabotage’
A breach in the fly ash pond at Essar Power Limited’s Mahan Power Plant spilled over an area of a few square kilometres damaging crops of about 500 farmers in three villages in Singrauli district of Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday night, district officials said.
The district administration rescued five children trapped in the sludge from the power plant on Thursday night from a hut, Singrauli district collector KVS Choudhary said.
Singrauli shares area with Uttar Pradesh, where it falls in Sonbhadra district. The region in the two states, considered backward, has about 10 thermal power plants having a combined capacity of 21,000 megawatts –the largest for one region. These plants have earned Singrauli the dubious distinction of being the second most critically polluted industrial zone in India after Ghaziabad, according to national pollution watchdog, the Central Pollution Control Board.
Essar in a statement said the leakage happened on Wednesday night and it was a clear case of “sabotage” by five or six people. The police is investigating the company’s claim.
Giving details about the leakage, the Sarpanch of one of the affected villages, Karsualal, Santosh Jaiswal, said the wall of the fly ash pond broke on Wednesday night and the sludge started moving out. “Till Wednesday evening it had covered around 300 acres of the land in three villages. Extensive damage has been caused to our crops which is worth several lakhs of rupees,” he alleged
KVS Choudhary confirmed the damage caused and said no human lives had been lost nor had any livestock loss been reported.
The collector said, “The district administration has served a notice to the power company management to pay damages to the farmers for the crop loss, take mitigation measures for the damage caused and prevent further loss due to further spillage.”
The collector said the district administration has asked 30 revenue officers (Patwaris) to assess the damage caused through an assessment field survey. The result will be known in two days.
A team of the Central Pollution Control Board and MP Pollution Control Board is also assessing the environmental damage and is suggesting measures to be taken, he said. The experts in the past have pointed out that fly ash on agricultural land can make it unusable if immediate remedial measures are not adopted.
In a statement, Essar’s senior vice-president (corporate affairs), Manish Kedia, said, “We are deeply shocked and anguished by the incident where the wall of the ash dyke at the 2×600 MW Mahan Power Plant, operated by Essar Power MP Ltd (EPMPL), was breached by an act of sabotage and the ash entered the adjoining land in Kasualal village.”
“EPMPL would like to categorically clarify that the breach of the ash dyke wall is a clear case of sabotage and that the land where the ash entered is non-agricultural land owned by EPMPL. Our security personnel deployed at the location have given a statement to the local police saying that they spotted 4-5 unidentified persons fleeing from the site of the incident. We have filed an application for an FIR alleging sabotage and also apprised all local authorities about the incident.”