Another Bhopal? Sonbhadra-Singrauli has all the ingredients

AVESH TIWARI@PatrikaNews | 7 June 2016

Have you heard of the Sonbhadra-Singrauli belt? This region at the cusp of Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh is billed by many as India’s energy capital. What nobody talks of is how this belt is on the brink of a disaster that can match the Bhopal disaster.Another Bhopal? Sonbhadra-Singrauli has all the ingredients

The methyl isocyanate leak at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal led to India’s biggest industrial disaster on 2 December, 1984. Such was the scale of the leak that horror stories haven’t stop coming out three decades on. But have we learnt any lesson?

Doesn’t seem so if we look at Sonbhadra-Singrauli. The 40 square-kilometre area hosts some half-a-dozen power plants – both coal-fired and hydro-electric. Their combined capacity of about 21,000 megawatts (MW) cater to a large part of the country.

Now private groups such as Reliance, Lanco and Essar as well as state-owned utilities are set to add 20,000 MW more by setting up several projects in the next five years.

The belt also houses several other industries like an aluminum, chemical and carbon factories of the Birlas and a cement factory owned by the Jaypee Group.

But these impressive numbers tell just one side of the story.

The Sonbhadra-Singrauli belt is also known for the plight of its farmers whose land has been ruined by mining and limestone.

This region is also home to over five lakh Adivasis. In fact, Sonbhadra is the only district of Uttar Pradesh where tribals are in a majority.

However, the fruits of industrial activity have barely reached these people with most of them find it difficult to make ends meet.

The region is traversed by eight small rivers. With the area accounting for nearly 16% of the total carbon emission in the country, it is of little surprise that all the river waters are completely polluted.

In other words, every inch of this land is prone to a catastrophe like Bhopal. The greed of industrialists, politicians and bureaucrats is not the only reason for this risk.

The media is equally to blame for this state of affairs. It will highlight Sonbhadra-Singrauli’s issues only after a disaster. Otherwise, it is happy to look the other way.

Enrico Fabian for The Washington Post via Getty Images
The chloro chemicals division of Kanoria Chemicals & Industries Ltd, located at Renukoot, produces some of the most dangerous substances for industrial use. It was acquired by the Aditya Birla group in 2011 at a cost of Rs 830 crore.

It is estimated that the waste produced by this factory kills 40-50 people every year on average. Most of this waste is released directly into the Rihand dam. And the effect is telling on the surrounding population.

Thousands of residents in hundreds of villages around the Rihand Dam have been completely or partially crippled.

“Waste from the Kanoria Chemicals factory at Renukoot kills 40-50 people every year on an average”
In December 2011, 20 people of the Kamari Dand village in Sonbhadra district lost their lives after using the water from the Rihand Dam. Thousands of cattle had also met with the same fate.

Investigations proved that the chemicals released from the Kanoria Chemicals Factory had poisoned the water. Yet, the issue did not attract enough media attention.

Earlier, a gas leak from the Kanoria plant had killed five people in January 2005. The accident reportedly occurred because of the negligence of company officials.

Villages after village in Sonbhadra are falling prey to the fatal disease of Fluorosis, a chronic condition caused by excessive intake of fluorine compounds.

There is hardly a person in villages like Padwa Kodawari and Kusumha, who has not been afflicted with some of kind of physical deformity due to this disease.

The power plants of Sonbhadra-Singrauli emit 1.5 tonnes of fly ash every year. This fly ash is composed of mercury that is extremely harmful to the human body. Traces of mercury have been found in the samples of human hair, blood and even crops of this region.

The locals have no option but to live with the impact of this pollution. The sun here is paled with the dust coming out of towering chimneys. A blanket of haze engulfs the air as soon as the evening sets in.

The pollution has not even spared the still-to-be-born babies. The death of children during the pre-pregnancy period has become a regular occurrence.

Yet, the state-run Obra and Anpara power plants are operating without any environmental clearance. The Central Pollution Control Board has ordered a close down stating they are ‘too dangerous.’

“State-run Obra and Anpara power plants are operating without environmental clearance”
However, nobody seems baffled with such blatant flouting of norms. The seeds of a Bhopal-like tragedy are being sown, not only in Sonbhadra-Singrauli belt but in every corner of the country.

The state as well as the Union Government is avoiding accountability in the name of development. For now, the Sonbhadra-Singrauli region is nothing more than a hen laying golden eggs for them.

While one Warren Anderson may have gotten away, there are many more in the making.

Reliance Power’s 4,000-Mw Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project may lose surplus coal block

NEW DELHI: The coal ministry is considering a proposal to de-allocate a surplus coal block attached to Reliance Power’s 4,000-Mw Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) and is working on modalities to cancel possible diversion of another four million tonnes per annum in the project’s other two mines that are now operational.

A senior government official said the final decision would be taken by power and coal minister Piyush Goyal soon. The move comes eight months after the Supreme Cour ..

Date: 19 February, 2014


 Dr. A.B. Akolkar

Member Secretary

Central Pollution Control Board

New Delhi 


Subject: Submission to the Committee formed By National Green Tribunal on environmental degradation in Singrauli 


This submission is to the Committee formed by the National Green Tribunal in the original Application No.  276 of 2013(Ashwani Kumar Dubey Vs. Union of India)as per its order on 29th of  January 2014 to inspect the industrial region of Singrauli, Madhya Pradesh and Sonbhadra, Uttar Pradesh and to assess their impact on environment , ambient air quality and health of people in these areas.

 SrijanLokhitSamiti is a people’s movement, working on social and environmental issues in Singrauli area of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.  In the past three decades Singrauli has seen an influx of industrial projects which have resulted in multiple displacements of people, severe health issues and a highly toxic environment in the area. SrijanLokhitSamiti has been fighting for people’s rights, displacement, land rights, human rights and environmental issues since thirty years as in this growth the people of Singrauli have been pushed to the periphery.

 As a concerned group we want to bring to your notice the environmental degradation we have witnessed since the past 30 years in our region, which till now has been ignored by the concerned authorities. Singrauli has come to the verge of being an ecological disaster and has also been a subject matter of researches and studies since the early 90’s and has validated our concerns of environment time and again. Below is a compilation of these studies that clearly corroborate environmental degradation we have been fighting against and witnessing.

1. Central Pollution Control Board conducted its study ‘Comprehensive environmental assessment of industrial Clusters’ in 2009[1], based on which Environment Ministry decided to impose a moratorium on clearances for all projects in Singrauli coalfields, as environmental pollution in this area exceeded norms. Subsequently, the moratorium on environmental clearance in 43 critically polluted areas or industrial clusters including Singrauli was lifted after the State Pollution Control Board submitted a plan for mitigation of adverse effects of pollution. But, this did not change the situation on ground.

2. A recent study (October 2012) done by the Centre for Science and Environment’s Pollution Monitoring Laboratory[2]conducted an extensive analysis of water and soil samples from the region, as well as biological samples such as blood, nails and hair of local people. The aim was to find out precisely what industrial pollution was doing to the district’s environment, ecology and people. The results of the tests exposed a tale of terrible contamination and ill-health stalking the region.


High level of mercury and fluoride contamination was found in drinking water and soil. Rihand Reservoir water was found contaminated with mercury. Arsenic was also found in Renuka River. One of the findings of the study is that residents of this region exhibited adverse health conditions and could be suffering from the effects of mercury poisoning, other than normal diseases. The report further states that, the likely cause of mercury pollution in the area is burning of huge amount of coal for power generation.


The report also goes to make recommendation that monitoring of methyl mercury in fish should be done regularly and advisory on eating fish must be issued by the government. This clearly shows that impact on aquatic life.

3.  A study on “Effect of Coal Based Industries on Surface Water Quality of Singrauli Industrial Area of M.P. (India)” published in IOSR Journal of Applied Chemistry, July 2012[3] established the impact of waste water discharge has been determined by analyzing the water sample with the help of the standard parameter. The result clearly indicates that the surface and ground water of the said area is being polluted substantially.

The report establishes that,

“Due to rapid industrialization and modernization the coal based industries are increasing at an alarming rate. The Coal based industries, such as by product coke- plants, coal washeries and thermal power plants release their liquid effluents, which are needed urgent attention for the treatment before they are discharged into fresh water streams.

The impact of Fluoride pollution is severe in the belt of Bargawan, Waidhan and Deosar are of Singrauli district. Incidence of white spots, skin infections and lumps of dead skin has been reported among the population of study area. A high percentage of gastro-intestinal parasitic infection was also found in the faecal sample of cattle in the village affected by effluents from coal based industries and coal mining.”

4.  Study done in 2012 “Contamination of Drinking Water Due to Coal-Based Thermal Power Plants in India”[4]assessed the impact of an Anpara and Renusgar coal-based thermal power plants(both plants located in Singrauli region) on drinking water sources. In this work, the concentration of trace metals such as Pb, Cd, Ni, and As in groundwater samples obtained from hand pumps located near these power plants were measured. The concentration levels of all the studied heavy metals in groundwater were found to be higher than the maximum acceptable limits of World Health Organization for drinking water.

5. In an article published in Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology in  October 2011,“Bioaccumulation of Metals in the Edible Catfish Heteropneustesfossilis (Bloch) Exposed to Coal Mine Effluent Generated at Northern Coalfield Limited, Singrauli, India[5]”; it is noted that:

“Metal accumulation in various tissues of Heteropneustes fossilis exposed to the effluent generated from an open cast coal mine was investigated. The contents of Fe, Mn, Cu, Zn, Ni, Pb, Cd and Cr in the effluent were above the permissible limits as suggested by the different pollution control agencies.Out of the eight metals investigated, accumulation (mg kg−1 dry weight of tissue) of Fe was maximum in every tissues followed by liver (265.88 ± 49.89) > kidney (153.0 ± 65.85) > gills (50.66 ± 23.923) > brain (49.303 ± 5.11) > air breathing organs (27.98 ± 10.93) > skin (19.56 ± 2.53) > muscles (8.74 ± 0.83). Accumulation of Fe, Cd, Pb and Cr in most of the tissues of exposed fish were above the permissible limits indicating their potential hazardous impact on fish as well as on fish consumers. Even in the tissues of untreated fish the concentrations of Fe (12.26–428.47), Cd (0.2–1.22), Pb (0.02–9.42) and Cr (1.14–11.05) were above the permissible limits.



The study establishes contamination in aquatic life and water sources in the region which had previously been established in a research conducted in 1995(mentioned below in point 8).

6. A study[6] for the assessment and management of the air quality was carried out around Jayant open cast coal mining situated at Jayant in Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh, India from January 2007 to December 2008 published in Indian Journal of scientific Research in 2010  establishes:

 “Air quality date at Jayant coal mining indicated that the concentration of SO , NO , TSP and dust fall rate and air borne trace metals were highest concentration of pollutant. 

 In Jayant coal mines suspended area the concentration of SO and NO were below the NAAQS and CPCB India at all the monitoring station but TSP and settled dust concentration were well above the limit.  Zinc and Maganese were present in highest qualities in both TSP and settled dust. In settled dust Zn showed maximum concentration followed by Mn, Pb, Cd, Ni and minimum in Cr however in TSP, Zn in followed by MnPb Cr Ni and minims Cd.”

 7. A study done on ‘Assessment of contamination of soil due to heavy metals around coal fired thermal power plants at Singrauli region of India’[7]  in 2010 establishes contamination of soil around four large coal-based Thermal Power Plants. The concentration of Cadmium, Lead, Arsenic and Nickel was estimated in all four directions from Thermal Power Plants.

The soil in the study area was found to be contaminated to varying degrees from coal combustion byproducts. The soil drawn from various selected sites in each direction was largely contaminated by metals, predominantly higher within 2–4 km distance from Thermal Power Plant. Within 2–4 km, the mean maximum concentration of Cadmium, Lead, Arsenic and Nickel was 0.69, 13.69, 17.76, and 3.51 mg/kg, respectively. It was also observed that concentration was maximum in the prevalent wind direction. The concentration of Cadmium, Lead, Arsenic and Nickel was highest 0.69, 13.23, 17.29 and 3.56 mg/kg, respectively in west direction where wind was prevalent.

8.In   an assessment of environment-mediated production functions of reservoirs done in 1995 and published as a technical paper by FAO[8], it had been noted that,

“Rihand is a large man-made lake of 46 000 ha, into which converge cooling waters from four super thermal power plants under the public sector viz., Singrauli (2 000 MW), Vindhyachal (2 260 MW), Anpara (3 130 MW) and Rihand (3 000 MW), besides the private sectors Renusagar thermal power plant with a capacity of 210 MW. All these power generating plants are located within a small area of 30 km2. Adverse effects of heated discharge on resident aquatic organisms were reported. Mortality of fish and decrease of aquatic life within 50 km of the discharge point, owing to high temperature (46 to 52°C) of the effluent was recorded.”

It further says,

“Deposition of fly ash has been reported up to 500 m downstream of the outfall point. Cooling waters of Renusagar power plant discharged into Rihand reservoir are acidic and high in chlorides. Although an increase in water temperature is known to cause deoxygenation, a rise within reasonable limit enhances photosynthetic activities resulting in supersaturation of water with oxygen. All the power plants around Rihand Reservoir are located near the intermediate and lotic sectors, where the fishes are known to congregate. The most deleterious among the impacts of thermal pollution is the blanketing effect on the reservoir bed. Thick mat of fly ash deposit at the bottom bed over the years may seal the nutrients away from the water phase and thereby affect productivity.”

9. In a study done in 1991, “Environmental degradation of the Obra-Renukoot-Singrauli Area, India, and its impact on natural and derived ecosystems”[9],it was noted that,

Quarrying for limestone, the establishment of a cement factory, thermal power stations and the construction of the G.B. Pant Sagar reservoir have resulted in a rapid buildup of human population, the displacement of the original population, deforestation and conversion of natural forest ecosystems into savanna and marginal croplands. The converted ecosystems are under immense biotic stresses such as lopping, grazing, etc.The rainfall is meagre and erratic, the soils are highly weathered and impoverished, consequently the natural forests, as well as the derived ecosystems, are fragile. Signs of desertification are widespread. A rapid depletion in the wildlife has occurred.

The establishment of thermal power stations and chemical and cement factories has also resulted in large scale gaseous air pollution, particularly of SO2 and HF, pollution due to particulate matter through fly ash and cement dust, and that due to liquid effluents. Surface coal mining has caused extensive damage to the natural ecosystems with growing dumps of overburden. The latter needs to be stabilized.”

These studies over a period of time,just go to establish that no serious attention was paid to these scientific studies which clearly established the degrading condition of the environment in Singrauli since past two decades.With this submission, we demand that these studies should be referred to and attention should be paid to the critical pollution levels in Singrauliwhich has been established by these scientific studies including the one commissioned by the Central Pollution Control Board; before the Committee submits its report to the National Green Tribunal.

In view of the above, it is pertinent that critical and comprehensive steps are taken to assess the damage on ecology, environment and people of Singrauli. We also strongly demand that the committee should recommend following to the Hon’bleNational Green Tribunal:

  • To conduct a study on a thorough and comprehensive review of air, soil and water contamination in Singrauli by competent institutions.All projects under consideration / construction must be stayed until this report comes out.
  • To announce a moratorium on all new projects in the area till the report comes out.
  • To conduct a comprehensive study on the health of the people in Singrauli and the damage caused by the decades of industrial influx and pollution.
  • To find errant industries flouting rules and laws in the region and take exemplary punitive actions.
  • To seek a review from the Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Boards of the Action Plan for mitigation of Pollution that was submitted by them based on which the moratorium on all projects in Singrauli was lifted in 2010.

We will be happy to provide more information if required.


Looking forward to hearing from you.



Awadhesh Kumar



Dhuti, Navjivanvihar

Vindhya Nagar, District Singrauli

Pincode- 688585