Rash Of Thermal Plants In Nellore District A Recipe For Human, Ecological Disaster

Sri Potti Sriramulu Nellore district is fast becoming the State’s dumping yard for intensely polluting coal-based thermal plants. A total of 26 thermal plants with a combined capacity of a staggering 27,015 MW are slated to come up in just two mandals – Muthukur and Chillakur, that too within a stretch of just 20 km. Situated to the north and south of Krishnapatnam Port, these plants are to be located either quite close to the sea or the Kandaleru river. This process is a recipe for a human and ecological disaster in the area.

The HRF demands a thorough cumulative environmental appraisal of all these thermal projects. Till such a comprehensive and integrated appraisal on the impact of these highly polluting projects on land, sea, livelihoods, agriculture, ecology, water bodies and health of people is done, these projects must be put on hold.

As of now, eight of these 26 projects have been accorded environmental clearance (EC) and the rest are at the proposal stage. The ECs were obtained on the basis of extremely flawed environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports. The appraisal bodies have been clearing these projects one-by-one, without looking at the compound impact of all these projects taken together.  It is shocking that so many coal-based plants with such a huge capacity have been given clearances with reckless abandon by concerned authorities. It is clear that both the State government and the Central Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) are presiding over a rubber-stamp clearance regime as far as coal-based thermal plants are concerned.

One single coal-based power plant of 1,000 MW is in itself a serious threat to the environment. To imagine 26 such plants as a cluster within such a small area is mind boggling. Given the nature of coal combustion, these projects will contaminate the land, water and air in the vicinity with significant amounts of mercury, lead, zinc, cadmium, arsenic, chromium and even radioactive isotopes. Generating electricity on this scale would involve burning of about 4

lakh tonne of coal every day and the spewing of 1.3 lakh tonne per day of toxic ash and 2,700 tonne of sulphur into the environs. Moreover, running of all these plants will involve daily drawal of nearly 59 lakh cubic meters of water, mostly from the sea and the Kandaleru river and pumping of waste water back into these sources at higher temperatures.

The negative consequences of this process on human and marine health and the ecology will be multiple. There has been a large-scale diversion of land and natural resources to these plants resulting in deprivation to not only farmers with land holding pattas but also those from the marginalised communities and members of various occupational classes. Ongoing construction in some of the projects has already resulted in a steep drop in fish and prawn catch for the yanadis, a Scheduled Tribe who eke out a living by fishing in the Buckingham Canal that runs through the area. Dalits and members of various other communities relying on the Kandaleru will also be similarly impacted. Ash ponds that will come up in the vicinity of these plants will have serious ill-effect on human health, farming and the groundwater table thereby hitting prawn farms in the area. Fisherfolk will be affected because marine catch will be undermined.

The overall picture is truly alarming. It is obvious that both the State government and the MOEF have been extremely callous in according clearances for these projects without bothering to sincerely comply with statutory obligations. Local people have been fed false promises of jobs which are simply not there. Instead of halting this environmental vanadalism, the government is busy trying to facilitate it. Consequently, there is a human and environmental disaster waiting to happen in the district. The combined pollution onslaught of these plants will affect human health within a 25 km radius and agriculture within a radius of 80 to 100 km.

To highlight these issues, the HRF is organising a one-day ‘prachara yatra’ in Chillakuru mandal on January 22. The campaign will begin at 9 am in Gummaladibba village and will cover 12 villages before culminating at Tikkavaram at about 5 pm.

VS Krishna 
(HRF State general secretary)

Dr. A Subramanyam 
(HRF State vice-president)


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