Large quantities of fly ash discharged was reportedly flowing into areas around the plant

Essar Energy’s Mahan-I 600MW coal-fired power plant in Singrauli district has been ordered to stop all operations by the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board (MPPCB).

During the monsoons in September last, MPPCB’s regional office in Singrauli reported that large quantities of fly ash — an effluent discharged during the combustion of coal — was flowing from the plant into the Garha stream and surrounding areas. In reply to a notice sent to Essars’s local subsidiary — Essar Power MP Limited — the company said that a new ash dyke to store the ash was under construction and that illegal discharge of ash outside the factory had taken place due to unexpectedly heavy rainfall.

Not satisfied with their response, the MPPCB ordered it to stop all operations on January 13. The company has also been asked to build a permanent ash dyke, install a continuous ambient air monitoring station, a sewage treatment plant and a tree plantation. Only on completion of these works can the company apply for permission to restart operations.

Essar has two 600MW power plants in Mahan. While Mahan-I started Commercial Operations in April, 2013, Mahan-II is under construction. Both plants intend to draw coal from the Mahan coal block, which has proven reserves of 150 tonnes of coal, where mining has not yet started as clearances have not yet been granted.

The forest in Mahan is home to 14,000 people, including Agria, Kol, Khairwar, Gond and Panika tribes. Objections were raised by the Union Ministries of Environment and Forests and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs over endangering biodiversity and violation of forest rights (www.thehindu.com /news/national/other-states/article4935075.ece)

Despite this, the Rs. 6,500 crore joint venture of Essar and Hindalco to mine in Mahan was granted clearance due to “huge exposure to nationalised banks.” (www.thehindu.com/news/national/ article 5151075.ece)

Greenpeace’s Media Officer in Singrauli, Avinash Chanchal told The Hindu that the factory continues to violate rules. “Their ash dyke is just across the road from a settlement. It poisons the water table and pollutes the air causing lung problems.”

Greenpeace and the Mahan Sangharsh Samiti hoisted a banner over Essar’s offices in Mumbai last week which read “We Kill Forests.”

Essar House Limited filed a defamation suit against the activists on Monday. While company sources said it is for Rs. 500 crore, Greenpeace said it was a Rs. 1,000 crore suit.

Essar Energy did not respond to queries from The Hindu.