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Punjab: Talwandi Sabo power plant fined Rs 5 lakh for pollution

The action follows a Hindustan Times report, ‘Talwandi Sabo private power plant flouts green laws to save Rs 400 crore’, on December 6, 2016, that said the plant management was using coal with ash content of 48% in violation of norms.

punjab Updated: Sep 28, 2017 21:13 IST
Vishal Rambani
Vishal Rambani
Hindustan Times, Patiala
Talwandi Sabo power plant,air pollution,PPCB
Talwandi Sabo power plant has been fined Rs 5 lakh for using coal with more than 34% ash content to produce power, causing fly ash pollution.(HT File)

The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has indicted the Talwandi Sabo Thermal Power Plant for flouting environment ministry norms and causing pollution. It has been fined Rs 5 lakh for using coal with more than 34% ash content to produce power, causing fly ash pollution. The private plant management has also been told to deposit an additional surety of Rs 30 lakh.

The PPCB issued orders to the plant on Wednesday to compensate cotton farmers in Mansa, who suffered losses because of the fly ash pollution. The plant, which tried to save on freight charges by using the unwashed coal, will now invest Rs 1 crore to improve its pollution control devices.

The action follows a Hindustan Times report, ‘Talwandi Sabo private power plant flouts green laws to save Rs 400 crore’, on December 6, 2016, that said the plant management was using coal with ash content of 48% in violation of norms.

The plant burdened power consumers too as they ended up paying Rs 280 crore per year as dues. The average per unit cost of power was higher than that produced at Larsen & Toubro’s Rajpura plant. The power cost between Rs 4.90 and Rs 5 per unit at the Talwandi Sabo plant, while it’s between Rs 4.25 and Rs 4.50 a unit at the Rajpura plant.

Taking cognizance of the HT report, the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission started proceedings against the power plant, while the PPCB initiated action after complaints of pollution.

PPCB chairman Kahan Singh Pannu said a field staff was sent to the area after complaints of air pollution due to the blowing of fly ash from the Talwandi Sabo plant and damage to cotton in nearby areas. After the lapses were highlighted, the plant authorities were summoned.

“The Talwandi Sabo power plant management admitted to a technical fault. The plant has been directed to ensure the use of good coal with ash content of not more than 34%, which is mandatory. If the plant fails to adhere to this, we will take stern action,” Pannu said.

As per the ministry, all coal-run thermal plants located beyond 1,000 km from the mine shall use coal having ash content not exceeding 34%. The Talwandi Sabo plant is located 1,700 km from Odisha’s Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) from where the coal is procured. The ash content of the coal being used is up to 50% of the weight, which is against the rules and the pact signed with the PSPCL.

The freight cost increases the cost of production by 40 paise per unit to the consumers. The plant saved Rs 300 crore annually in the bargain.

Though the PPCB has cracked the whip, the PSPCL is yet to decide on the issue. “A chief engineer submitted a report that PSPCL is suffering a loss of Rs 300 crore annually because of unwashed coal that led to higher variable cost of production but the PSPCL management is yet to act”, said an official dealing with case. Despite being seized of issue, the PSPCL management hasn’t made any effort to bring down the cost.

When contacted, PSPCL chairman and managing director A Venu Prasad said that ensuring environment ministry norms are followed is in the PPCB’s ambit, thus the PSPCL wrote to it. He declined comment when told that the power purchase agreement stipulates that the plant has to adhere to all conditions of the central and state governments too.

First Published: Sep 28, 2017 20:56 IST