NGT seeks response from coal, power utilities on pollution

The National Green Tribunal has taken serious note of alarming pollution caused by thermal power plants in Vidarbha using inferior quality coal, in violation of Ministry of Environment and Forests' norms.

A division bench of NGT, Western Zone bench, Pune comprising Justice V R Kingaonkar (judicial member) and Ajay A Deshpande (expert member) on Tuesday issued a notice to Maharashtra chief secretary, state energy department, environment department, Union Power and Coal Ministries, MoEF, MPCB, Coal India Limited and its subsidiary Western Coalfields and state run power utility Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (MahaGenco) seeking a reply by March 19.

A PIL in this regard had been filed by Ratnadeep Rangari, a social worker and resident of Mahadula village near here charging coal and power utilities with flouting MoEF norms, polluting the air, poisoning the water and reducing Vidarbha to a gas chamber by not using clean coal technology.

This has put lives of about 20 million Vidarbhites in danger, the petition stated while urging NGT to direct coal and power utilities to follow MoEF notification and all other regulatory and supervisory institutions to ensure its compliance.

Quoting various news items, expert reports of Greenpeace, Prayas and parliamentary standing panel reports directing coal and power utilities to reduce pollution by adopting clean technology, the petitioner cited expert opinion which blamed use of inferior coal for over one lakh premature deaths in coal bearing areas and in vicinity of power generating units.

As on date, coal-fired power plants run by MahaGenco are located at Khaparkheda, Koradi (both in Nagpur district), Chandrapur, Paras (Akola) in Vidarbha while various private players have proposed thermal power plants in Vidarbha with total estimated production level of 41,195 MW, which is tremendously high, the petition said.

The 132 plants will need around 1 lakh acre farm land and 3,600 cubic mm water, with which over 5.5 lakh hectare land can be irrigated. The proposed power plants will burn 18 lakh tonne coal per day turning "Vidarbha into an ash dump." It will also lead to rise in temperatures by 3 to 4 degrees, the petition said.

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