The Supreme Court Friday sought response from the Centre and others on a plea seeking directions to restrain thermal power plants in Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh, and Sonebhadra, Uttar Pradesh, from disposing fly ash, toxic residue and industrial waste in the Rihand reservoir and other water bodies. A bench comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant issued notices to the Ministry of Heavy Industries, Ministry of Water Resources, Environment Ministry, Central Pollution Control Board, UP and MP governments, Vindhyachal Super Thermal Power Station and others while seeking their replies before November 20. The apex court was hearing a plea filed by advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey which referred to an incident dated October 6, in which the ash dyke of NTPC Vindhyachal Super Thermal Power Station, in Singrauli, breached due to the “negligent act” of power project and more than 35 lakh metric tons of fly ash entered into the Govind Vallabh Pant Sagar ‘Rihand Reservoir’.
The reservoir is the only source of drinking water for the people of Singrauli and Sonebhadra districts, and the entire water has been contaminated, making it unfit for consumption, it said. “Due to the breach, the fly ash destroyed the agricultural land and many cattle have also gone missing. That due to the collapse of ash dyke, as per the primary finding of Pollution Control Board, there has been huge loss to the environment and more than 35 lakh metric ton fly ash stored has been deposited in the Rihand Reservoir through the ‘Naala’. “The damage has been caused to the environment in various contexts viz ground water damage, damage of standing crops and the agricultural land have become unfertile. The mercury is in the air, water and soil of the Singrauli area is more than the prescribed limit.
The adverse impact of the pollution is visible in the blood, hair, nails, legs, hands and body of the people living there,” the plea said. Dubey contended that water of the many villages, namely Govindpur, Kusmaha, Kakri, Harrahwa, Khairahi, Naktu, Sirsoti, Chilkadand, Pasavar Raja and Dibulgang, Jaitpur, Jayant, Baliyari, Jubadi, Chandawal, Yogichaura, Bhairawan and Misra, is already contaminated and rendered unsafe for drinking due to high fluoride concentration and toxic residue. “Not only this, the level of mercury concentration in ground water is found to be exceeding the prescribed limits in various villages /colonies such as Jayant Colony, Jaitpur, MPCC Colony, Parsawar- Raja, Chilkadand, Kirwani, Parasi, Harrahwa, Naktu, Sirsoti, Kushmaha, Govindpur, Dibulganj and other villages of Singrauli and Sonebhadra,” the plea said. People are deprived of their fundamental and legal rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India due to such irresponsible behaviour of government officials and the heavy industries operating in the area, it alleged.
The petition has sought directions to place the relevant records and the data of fly ash dykes situated in Singrauli area. It has also sought directions to the thermal power plants of the Singrauli area to immediately stop discharging their fly ash, bottom ash, toxic residue and industrial waste in the agricultural lands and water bodies.