Farmland in Odisha’s Sambalpur contaminated by breach in slurry pond
Soon after the mishap in Odisha’s Sambalpur, heavy machinery was pressed into service to remove the collapsed boundary wall of the company. Workers were trying to stop the flow of water and repair the wall.
Bhubaneswar: Several acres of farmland near an integrated steel plant in the western Odisha district of Sambalpur were submerged in iron ore slurry after the tailing pond wall was breached on Thursday evening, locals said.
No loss of life has been reported so far but a security guard is missing.
Officials said farmland at Banjhiberana village next to the 2.5 MTPA steel plant of JSW Bhushan Power and Steel Limited at Thelkoloi area of Sambalpur district came under several inches of sludge containing iron ore slurry due to the breach.
Rengali tehsildar Damayanti Sahoo who visited the spot said she could see at least 20-30 acres of farmland submerged under the iron ore slurry while two ponds were contaminated.
“In one of the ponds, I could see dead fishes floating. Tomorrow, we will do a thorough survey of the damage,” said Sahoo.
A company official said the iron slurry generated from beneficiation plant is pumped to the pond from where further disposal and waste recovery is carried out.
“But due to breach of the wall of the pond, thick low-grade Iron ore slurry spread into the compound of tailing pond and further to some adjacent land. As of now, the slurry discharged from the pond is under control and no more discharge of slurry is taking place. For better handling of slurry, a project is being carried out to install a paste thickener to reduce the volume of slurry,” the official said.
Soon after the mishap, heavy machinery was pressed into service to remove the collapsed boundary wall of the company. Workers were trying to stop the flow of water and repair the wall.
A resident of Banjhiberena village said the crop in his field was completely damaged. “The farmland has been totally contaminated. I don’t know how I can grow another crop,” the villager said.
A JSW official who inspected the site said the company will hold discussions with villagers and compensate those who suffer losses.
Officials at the regional office of the state pollution control board have not commented on the slurry pond breach.
The breach in the slurry pond comes in the wake of a similar breach in the fly ash dyke of Reliance’s Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh in April 2020 that left two people dead.
The Sambalpur-based steel plant, initially promoted by Sanjay Singal, was acquired by Sajjan Jindal-led JSW Steel Ltd in March last year after its principal lender, State Bank of India, filed a case of insolvency before National Company Law Tribunal. JSW, which paid Rs19,350 crore to BPSL’s lenders, has renamed the company JSW Bhushan Power and Steel Limited.
In October last year, residents of Thelkoloi village staged a demonstration protesting the alleged dumping of fly ash in open areas by the company. The villagers complained that the ash was causing respiratory problems and irritation in the eye, forcing the villagers to stay indoors. Besides, drinking water sources are also getting contaminated due to fly ash.