MAC: Mines and Communities

Vedanta's Jharsuguda ash pond hit by its own "Hurricane Harvey"

Published by MAC on 2017-08-30
Source: The Telegraph (India) (2017-08-30)

Just as Vedanta's CEO Tom Albanese was preparing to quit his post, yet another disaster struck the UK-listed company - at the Jharsuguda aluminium smelter in the Indian state of Orissa last Tuesday.

Following rains, the fly ash pond retention wall completely caved in, resulting in metal-contaminated wastes submerging up to 100 acres of farmland.

Villagers angrily assembled at the smelter main gate, demanding compensation for their losses, while a spokesperson for Vedanta blithely promised that "the affected land will be brought back to usual condition".

It's the type of mealy-mouthed utterance which has so often been heard in recent years as Vedanta fails dismally to manage its parlous relationships with its workforce and other neighbours.

Nor is it the first time that its dumping of fly ash on agricultural land in Jharsuguda has been met with vigorous protest.
(See: Vedanta accused of illegal acquistion of Jharsuguda land - activist 

Ironically, at the recent Vedanta AGM in London, Mr Albanese and executive chair Anil Agarwal proudly referred to company's use of fly ash in the construction of Orissa roads (see:  Vedanta: It's deja vu all over again)

Tom Albanese clearly wished to leave shareholders with a refreshing image: the reduction of environmental impacts by partial recycling of some highly toxic wastes that would also contribute to better infrastructure.

Now he's joyfully re-uniting with his family in the USA.

Doubtless he'll be  diligently following media coverage of Hurricane Harvey's  devastating domestic trail.

But,  hopefully, his mind will be exercised by images of an Indian disaster from whose consequences he can't escape.

A man-made one, occurring in the last hours of his Vedanta watch. (see video link here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ws4atL3nrDY&feature=youtu.be).

[Comment by Nostromo Research]

Vedanta ash flows over agri land

Our Correspondent

The Telegraph (India)

29 August 2017

Bhubaneswar: Tension gripped the Vedanta aluminium plant at Jharsuguda today following collapse of an ash pond of the captive power plant last night leading to ash flooding acres of paddy fields at Katikela village.

The irate villagers locked the plant's main gate, demanding adequate compensation for crop loss.

"The ash pond No. 2 of the smelter plant collapsed around 9pm yesterday with a breach of around 800 metres. As a result, the kharif crop in nearby fields got badly damaged. Besides, the ash entered several houses before flowing down to the Bheden river," said a villager.

"We have been opposing the construction of ash ponds apprehending this kind of consequences. Cracks have also developed in another such pond, and we think it will also collapse. The ash ponds pose threat to our livelihood. No one either from the district administration or the plant has visited our village to assess the damage," alleged another villager.

However, the Jharsuguda tehsildar later visited the affected site and said the district administration had asked for a damage assessment report. "Officials of the revenue and agriculture departments as well as the Odisha State Pollution Control Board will conduct a joint probe to assess the damage," said tehsildar Golak Bihari Mangaraj. He also said preliminary report suggested that around 100 acres of agricultural land had been affected.

On the other hand, plant authorities said they were in constant touch with the district administration over the issue.

"We have already deployed heavy machines to clear the ash from the fields and repairing of the portion of ash pond that has collapsed will be done at the earliest possible. We promise that the affected land will be brought back to usual condition," said the plant's chief (electrical department) Jayprakash Mohanty.

Environmentalists said spread of ash on agricultural land had a long-term effect. "Ash overflowing on agricultural land leaves behind heavy metal, which stays in spite of clearing the soil layer. The presence of heavy metal often leads to soil contamination and affects the crop. Besides, the aquatic animals of the near by Bheden river will also be highly affected," said environmentalist Bijay Mishra.

In December 2000, the collapse of embankment of an ash pond at Nalco in Angul had led to spread of dumped ashes in slurry form over a radius of 20km, including the Nadira river.

 

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