Ash storm hits 200 Angul villages; residents suffocated

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Ash storm hits 200 Angul villages; residents suffocated

Tuesday, 21 March 2023 | BIJAY MISHRA | ANGUL

Around 200 villages, hamlets and urban areas of the Angul-Talcher-Meramundali industrial belt, are now heavily polluted due to severe fly ash emanated from the plants’ ash ponds leading to unprecedented human suffocation and subsequent health disasters.
The problem was acute on Saturday as uncovered toxic ash dumped in the ponds of power plants flew in air, polluting land, air, and water of the periphery villages. The problem became aggravated at Kaniha, Angul , Banarpal and Meramundali area when during the heavy wind, fly ash flew in the periphery villages raging like a storm.

"The fly ash of the ash ponds flew with heavy wind in our area for a long two hours. The fly ash entered into rooms of our houses including kitchens and even our food and water were covered with toxic fly ash. There was a serious suffocation and breathing problem,’’ said Nabaghana Samal, a social activist of Kulei village of Kaniha. The villagers held a demonstration and blocked road demanding immediate relief from the menace at Kaniha.

Notably, Angul people are at high health risk due to severe pollution by thermal power plants and coal mines. Due to dust and air pollution, diseases like tuberculosis, asthma, fluorosis, bronchitis, thyroid and stomach ailments have become endemic. Failure in implementing various action plans in the stipulated times and the negligence of the statutory bodies, including the Pollution Control Board caused serious air pollution in Angul. While various action plans prepared by the OSPCB have not been implemented by the industries and mines authorities, action plans on urban waste management, planned transportation activities and fly ash management have not been fully implemented.

A large quantity of fly ash dumped into poorly designed and maintained ash ponds leads to severe air pollution. About a lakh tonne of the toxic ash lies dumped in various ash ponds, polluting land, air, and water. The heavy metals found in fly ash including nickel, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, lead, etc are highly toxic and carcinogenic. They leech into the surrounding soil and enter food-chains also. Fly ash gets easily ingested through respiration, which causes many diseases.

Communities living close by ash ponds are suffocated due to fly ash storms during the dry season. Fly ash from various thermal power plants is dumped in hundreds of acres of land, near human habitations, roads and pools. The particles of fly ash blow with the wind to surrounding areas of the thermal power plants, causing people in the vicinity to inhale it. This results in several respiratory diseases among the people. The children and old persons are particularly vulnerable.

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