Twenty-Two Killed, 100 Injured as Boiler Explodes at NTPC’s Unchahar Plant

BY THE WIRE STAFF ON 02/11/2017

New Delhi: A boiler in the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Unchahar plant in Rae Bareli exploded on Wednesday (November 1), leaving 22 people dead and close to 100 injured.

According to Uttar Pradesh police ADG (law and order) Anand Kumar, the toll from the explosion could rise further as people are feared to be trapped inside the plant.

The boiler pipe burst in the 500 MW power-generating unit that began operating in March, NDTV reported. A massive fire broke out and a large ball of dust rose after the explosion, making rescue difficult, the channel said.

“…there was sudden abnormal sound at 20 mt. elevation and there was an opening…from which hot flue gases and steam escaped affecting the people working around the area,” NDTV quoted NTPC as saying in a statement.

Chief minister Adityanath, who is away in Mauritius on a three-day official visit, ordered that necessary steps be taken for rescue and relief. “The chief minister has taken cognisance of the Unchahar accident and has directed principal secretary (home) to ensure that all steps are taken for rescue and relief,” principal secretary (information) Awanish Awasthi, who is accompanying Adityanath, said.

NTPC said in a statement, according to NDTV, “An unfortunate accident in the boiler of 500MW under trial unit of NTPC – Unchahar occurred this afternoon”.

The injured are being rushed to nearby hospitals, police have said. The district administration rushed ambulances to the plant and directed health officials to provide prompt treatment to the injured. A National Disaster Response Force team has also been sent to help with the rescue efforts.

The coal-fired plant is owned by India’s biggest power utility NTPC Ltd, and police officer Dhananjay Singh said the plant, has now been shut down.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted to say officials were ensuring that normalcy is restored.

Deeply pained by the accident at the NTPC plant in Raebareli. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly. The situation is being closely monitored & officials are ensuring normalcy is restored: PM @narendramodi

(With PTI inputs)

https://thewire.in/193493/ntpc-boiler-explodes-unchahar-12-killed/

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NTPC blast due to pressure to start unit ahead of schedule?

BISWAJEET BANERJEE

The Unchahar power plant where the blast took place

All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) suspects safety standards were compromised in the company’s haste to operationalise unit a year ahead of schedule

Did officials of NTPC compromise on safety resulting in the accident in which 30 workers, most of them casual workers, lost their lives and 66 others received burns, some of them over 70 per cent, and are struggling for their lives at the Unchahar Thermal Power Plant?

Questions are being raised whether the unit no. 6 of the Unchahar Thermal Power plant was ready for trial. Was the operation cleared by the competent authority or did the NTPC board or chairman force officials to start operations without allowing a “cooling period” for the plant to settle down?

Electrical engineers NH spoke to said that normally it takes a new, thermal unit three and a half years to four years to become operational. But at Unchahar, this particular unit was being pushed to become operational in two and a half years. Was the NTPC chairman also under pressure, they wondered.

“The admission that around 150-200 people were working in the boiler section at the time of the accident is a clear indication that work in the plant was not complete. In a running plant only 5-6 people work at a time in that section. Why were so many people working there ?” asks Shailendra Dubey, Chairman, All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF) .

Safety factors should not be compromised in the company’s rush to complete projects ahead of schedule, the engineers say. The AIPEF has demanded a high level independent enquiry in the whole matter so that such type of incident may not occure in future, he said.

The blast was reportedly triggered in the duct connected to the boiler which is used for transferring ash of burnt coal. It is believed that the ash pipe got choked, causing the blast.

Apart from huge accumulation of ash in the furnace, the problem also got aggravated when the coal powder which was pumped into the furnace developed a `clinker formation’ .As workers were engaged to break the clinkers, the coal supply got disrupted. This disturbed the pressure which rose to +350 mmwc from the normal pressure of +/-5 mmwc into the boiler which started vibrating before bursting from corner number 2, an engineer tried to explain.

“The formation of coal clinkers often causes serious problem for smooth working of a power plant,” confirmed Dubey. He said that the boiler has enormous pressure which needs to be maintained with smooth flow of coal.

He said that AIPEF would be submitting a memorandum to Central Power Minister R K Singh demanding strict adherence of safety measures in running the power plants.

Meanwhile, four critically injured workers succumbed to their injuries at different government hospitals in Lucknow late last night taking the toll to 30. Still more than 60 critically injured were admitted at different hospitals.

Principal secretary (home) Arvind Kumar said that 19 people died in Rae Bareli while the rest died in different hospitals including in Lucknow.

The victims were mostly contractual workers engaged in construction work of the boiler.

According to an eye witness, a big explosion rocked the campus with black smoke engulfing the unit. There were around 1150 worker working in the power plant at the time of the incident. Most of the deceased were burnt alive.

According to the reports, the plant was on a trial run and generating 200 Megawatts of power which was not yet being supplied to the grid.

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.

FARMER TRAGEDIES
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
POISON FACTORY
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.

HAZARD CALLED MERCURY
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.

http://www.catchnews.com/india-news/sonbhadra-singrauli-belt-is-called-india-s-power-capital-but-may-be-headed-for-a-disaster-1465284694.html

No trees be cut without consent in UP, MP: NGT to industries

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has restrained industries, including Essar, Hindalco and Reliance’ Sasan Ultra Mega Power project, from cutting trees without consent from competent authorities.

These industries are based in Singrauli and Sonebhadra districts of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also issued bailable warrants against the officials concerned of Madhya Pradesh government’s environment department, forest department and pollution control board as well as the District Collector of Singrauli as no one appeared on their behalf
despite issuance of notice to them on September 18.

“Respondents 3, 4, 5 (Madhya Pradesh government) and 8 (Singrauli District Collector) have been served. Despite service no one is present… We issue bailable warrants against respondents 3, 4, 5 and 8 in the sum of Rs 10,000…to ensure appearance of these respondents before the tribunal on the next date of hearing.
    
“In the meanwhile, none of the respondents will fell trees without consent of the competent authority,” the bench said and listed the matter for November 12.

The NGT was hearing a plea opposing new power projects in Singrauli and Sonebhadra districts alleging that pollution and serious ailments are being caused due to coal mining as well as emissions of thermal power stations there.

The petition by Supreme Court lawyer Ashwani Kumar Dubey has also raised the issue of alleged felling of trees by Mahan Coal Ltd, a joint venture of Essar Power and Hindalco Industries, without obtaining requisite forest clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

During the day’s proceedings counsel for Essar assured the tribunal that its 1200 MW thermal power project in Singrauli has all required clearances and that the power plant is not even in the forest area.

The counsel for Hindalco submitted that its captive power project there only has stage I forest clearance and assured the bench that there no trees are being felled at present.

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