Varanasi: Perturbed by the increasing levels of hazardous pollutants including heavy metals in water, air and soil, the natives of different villages in the Singrauli area of Sonbhadra district formed a forum -Singrauli Pradooshan Mukti Vahini supported by Banwasi Seva Ashram to raise their voice and draw the attention of authorities for strict implementation of pollution control measures. They assembled at GIC Ground, Dudhi on Monday to raise their demands. The authorities also admit that population in dozens of villages in this area known as ‘power and industrial hub’ are affected with polluting agents like mercury and fluoride. They, however, said that appropriate measures are being taken to put a check on pollution.
The report of the core committee constituted by the National Green Tribunal suggests that the level of mercury in Rihand reservoir and Renu River reached at an alarming situation while its level in ground water in Govindpur was found around 19 times higher than the prescribed limit. The high concentration of other pollutants including chromium, cadmium, lead and aluminum was also found in NGT report. The NGT had constituted the core committee in August 2014 for monitoring potential hazards of industrial development in Singrauli area (both in UP and MP). Besides, five sub-committees were also constituted for the quantification of industrial impact, potential of pollution in water resources, land resources and air quality, and assessment of potential impact on human health with respect to Singrauli area. Singrauli area (both in UP and MP). Besides, five sub-committees were also constituted for the quantification of industrial impact, potential of pollution in water resources, land resources and air quality, and assessment of potential impact on human health with respect to Singrauli area.
“The situation is getting worse with the increasing level of pollution in air, surface water, ground water, and soil adversely affecting the human health,” Shubha Bahen of Banbasi Seva Ashram told TOI. Dr. Anil Gautam, a scientist at People’s Science Institute, Dehradun, who conducted extensive study on environmental issue in Singrauli area, said that the gravity of matter could be understood with the NGT report. According to him, the prescribed limit of mercury is 0.001 ppm (particle per million), while as per NGT report it is 19 times higher at some places.
Bihari Dhanger of fluoride affected Rohaniya Damer village of the area is bedridden as he could not move due to skeletal fluorosis. Like him many others including children of the village suffer from fluoride toxicity that includes dental fluorosis, skeletal fluorosis, depressed activity of thyroid, disruption. Ingestion of low doses of fluoride (0.2 – 0.3 ppm) causes gastrointestinal discomfort and interferes with bone formation and leads to increases in wrist and hip fractures. Skeletal fluorosis is endemic and causes irritable bowel symptoms and joint pain.
Singrauli area remained unexploited until the construction of Rihand dam (Govind Ballabh Pant Sagar – GBPS) in 1961. The dam was constructed on the river Rihand, which is a tributary of the Son river. Today Singrauli has many thermal power stations, coal mines and other industrial units. The area has 10 thermal power plants having a total installed capacity of 21000 MW (6 plants in UP and 4 plants in MP). As per NGT report these plants generate about 35 million tonnes flyash per year and 14.61 tonnes mercury per year.
Earlier in 2012, the Centre For Science and Environment, New Delhi had also examined mercury pollution in Sonbhadra district and its health impacts. According to its report, most of the drinking water samples were not found to be suitable for drinking. The fluoride content of the samples from fluoride affected area was 2.1 times higher than the desirable limit of 1.0 ppm. The results show that the filter fitted to remove the fluoride is not as effective as it should have been. Also the installed filter releases calcium as the value of calcium was higher in the filtered water than the unfiltered water. Residents of this area show adverse health effects such as skeletal fluorosis which is one of the fluoride toxicity symptoms. Average concentrations of mercury in human blood, hair and nail were 34.30 ppb, 7.39 ppm and 0.83 ppm respectively. More than 84% blood samples were found to contain mercury above the safe level (5.8 ppb) set by US Environment Protection Agency (USEPA).
The officer at the local unit of UP Pollution Control Boart Kalika Singh admitted that the area faces environmental pollution, and said that measures are being taken to put a check. “We have recently surveyed about 45 affected villages to assess the situation and take steps accordingly,” he told TOI adding that a continuous monitoring system for mercury monitoring started functioning at Renukoot, while the system is also proposed at Anapara and Govindpur.
The NGT report also revealed that the fluoride removal units installed in the hand pumps in the affected area have not been regenerated/serviced since long. It recommended that expansion of existing industries and permission for installation of new industries should only be considered after ensuring that the cumulative impact of emissions and effluent on ambient air and water quality of the area should not exceed the prescribed limits. The SPMV also demanded an immediate check on expansion and establishment of new industries without such measures. They also demanded a complete assessment of the problem with active participation of local representatives.SPMV also demanded an immediate check on expansion and establishment of new industries without such measures. They also demanded a complete assessment of the problem with an active participation of local representatives.