The Supreme Court last week asked the National Thermal Power Corporation Limited to file its reply in a plea seeking ban on dumping of industrial waste in water bodies of MP's Singrauli and UP's Sonebhadra districts.
The bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Surya Kant had issued notices on the plea to the Ministry of Heavy Industries, Ministry of Water Resources, Environment Ministry, Central Pollution Control Board, UP and MP governments, and others, last month.
The plea has been filed by Advocate Ashwani Dubey, in wake of a recent incident dated October 6, whereby the Rihand Reservoir, the only source of drinking water for the people of Singrauli and Sonebhadra districts, was contaminated, ensuing a breach in the "Fly Ash Dyke" of NTPC Vindhyachal Super Thermal Power Station.
"…this is not the first time has happened in the history of that area but is a continuous tragedy which happened every year or more than twice in each year in the industries situated therein," he submitted.
The Petitioner informed the bench that the spill had spread across a radius of 5-7 Kms and yet the authorities did not carry out any rescue measures.
He contended that the said power station was guilty of throwing more than 35 lacs matric ton of fly ash, toxic residue, industrial waste and other chemicals in the Rihand Reservoir, which damaged standing crops in the fields of poor farmers.
"despite of directions issued for the control of pollution and discharge of solid waste and toxic residue in a precautionary manner, the Respondent has not taken any preventive measures and it has become a routine for the industry which is causing serious damage to the environment, local people, cattle's, fields, existing crops and water bodies."
Allegedly, the ash dykes of all power plants operating in the area have reached to their saturated level, leading to overflow, which is discharged into the Rihand Reservoir.
"Most of the ash pond have attend their maximum height and reached their saturation, and therefore, have no further augmentation capacity for disposal of ash slurry. The situation is getting worsen day by day and the flyash is not being utilized as per the flyash notification rather being thrown in the water bodies and rivers. Not only this, the over burden of the coalmines is also playing vital role in damaging the environment and the life of people living in the surrounding villages of Singrauli and Sonebhadra is at stake."
It was further submitted that such actions of the Respondents had rendered the water of Singrauli area and nearby districts unfit for drinking; with fluoride and mercury concentration in the water being much higher than the prescribed limit.
The Respondents were also alleged to have contaminated the agricultural fields by continuous release of concentrations of aluminum, iron, manganese, nickel and mercury, resulting in serious health issues amongst the residents of those areas.
"such continuous discharge…which were intentionally and willfully discharged by Thermal Power Plants functioning in the concerned Singrauli area in order to avoid their legal duties and liabilities towards the resident of the said area and merely for their greed is affecting the life of upcoming generation i.e. the growing children and health, life and limb of the residents of nearby villages is at stake. The newly born, young children are also affected with unknown and serious ailments /illness, diseases. The children are born with defects in their body parts. Many people have serious ailments/ diseases and also have problems in their breathing and with other body functioning," the petition read.
The court has granted a week's time to the Solicitor General to file a reply in the matter.
Read Petition Here