BHUBANESWAR: A multi-disciplinary team with experts from the fields of process technology, atmospheric physics and chemistry, meteorology and agriculture will study the reason behind crop damage around Nalco smelter plant at Angul, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik informed the Assembly on Friday.
Replying to a calling attention notice on alleged leakage of poisonous gas from the smelter plant on July 30, Naveen said the Government is aware of the damage to crops around the plant.
The Orissa State Pollution Control Board conducted a spot inquiry on August 1 and reported that the damage might be due to emission and deposition of fluorinated compounds from the smelter plant.
Considering the immediate need, the board has asked the Angul Collector to make an assessment of the damage. It has directed Nalco authorities to immediately engage an expert team to study the episodic emission, which occurs under a specific weather condition, and suggest appropriate remedial measures.
Besides, it has been planned to engage a team of experts from reputed institutes like Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Engineers India Limited, National Productive Council (environment management group) to investigate in detail and propose a definite action plan for a solution, Naveen said.
Refusing the allegation that Nalco has not paid any compensation, he said ex-gratia to the tune of Rs 31 lakh has been paid from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund to the affected farmers for the damage to their crops during the 2003 Kharif season.
The Chief Minister said prior to that the board received similar allegations. And investigation into the incidents indicated that the crop damage might be due to gas emissions from the smelter.
Orissa University of Agriculture Technology has also investigated the incident and its report suggested that the damage to crops might be due to toxic fumes from the smelter plant, he said.
Investigating the alleged gas leakage in August 2004, scientists from the Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack, observed that damage to certain variety of paddy plants was due to uneven topography, insufficient rainfall, planting of unsuitable paddy crop, bacterial blight and improper use of fertiliser.
Admitting that certain patches of Angul district are endemic to fluoride, the Chief Minister said though Nalco has provided efficient gas extraction collection and a dry scrubbing system to treat fluoride gases, release of fugitive hydrogen fluoride to the atmosphere is not ruled out.