A five-member principal bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) — which was hearing the case of industrial pollution in Tamnar and Ghargoda block of Chhattisgarh’s Raigarh — appointed a new head to its oversight committee implementing pollution control regulations in the area June 24,2021.
The former judge of the High Court of Chhattisgarh, VK Shrivastava, will be the new head of the committee for the next six months, the order stated.
The order was passed after a written submission by the villagers highlighting continued pollution as well as inadequacy in action plan framed and measures taken by the company to restore the area.
Nearly 52 villages in the Tamnar and Ghargoda block of Raigarh are affected by industrial pollution in the area. The villagers had approached the NGT in 2018 seeking remedy.
Affected villages include Kosampalli, Dongamahua, Kodkel, Kunjemura and Regaon Nagmuda, Milupara and Sakta, under Tamnar Block; and Bhengari, Charmar, Khokroama and Tendanavapara, Chal, etc, under Ghargoda block.
Among the key demands of the residents are remediation of polluted air, water, soil in the area. This area has about 13 coal mines and 12 power plants with a generation capacity 4,000 megawatt.
Key industries — including Jindal Power Ltd, Jindal Power and Steel Ltd, TRN Energy Pvt Ltd, Mahavir Energy and Coal Benefaction Ltd, Hindalco lndustries Ltd and Monet Energy Ltd, South Eastern Coalfields Ltd (SECL) — operate here.
With the recent privatisation policy of the state government, more coal mines are scheduled to open up.
Monsoon push to seek remedy
The villagers June 21, 2021 submitted a written petition to the NGT requesting a ban on transport of coal by road and fly ash disposal in low-lying areas.
They urged the court to pass immediate directions, saying monsoon rains will soon start and legacy ash dump sites will pollute the river as well as agricultural land. The residents in the area suffer from various illnesses due to pollution, they added.
A health assessment of villagers of Tamnar block by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Research in Tribal health (NIRTH) Jabalpur in 2019 had said:
“Nearby mining activities put the tribal population of Raigarh at increased risk of diseases such as acute respiratory infection (ARI), tuberculosis, road traffic accident (RTA), etc. Apart from environmental health hazards, under nutrition prevalence in the area increases the risk further for various diseases. Kelo river in Tamnar is polluted due to waste disposal from mining activities”.
Despite their grievances at the court since 2018, not much has changed, the villagers claimed. The villagers flagged lack of action to numerous errors in the action plan (see table below), prepared by the committee appointed by the NGT in 2019.