CSE study had found Bakreshwar (West Bengal) plant to be polluting
Poor ash utilization and water contamination issues were noted in CSE study
CSE study had assessed four plants in West Bengal; the combined performance was found to be poor
CESC Budge Budge plant was rated as best in India by the study
NEW DELHI, July 16: The Bakreshwar thermal power plant Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had found to be performing poorly on environmental grounds has been pulled up by the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT’s) eastern zone bench which has issued a show cause notice to the plant, asking why it should not be penalised for polluting the Chandrabhaga and Bakreshwar rivers.
In a statement, CSE’s Deputy Director General Chandra Bhushan said, “The NGT notice further shows that the thermal power sector needs to modernize and adopt environment-friendly practices and technology to minimize the impact of power generation on the environment.”
The Bakreshwar plant was part of the four power plants in West Bengal that CSE carried out over a two-year period as part of its Green Ratings Project (GRP), finding it to be among the worst-performing on several accounts, particularly with regard to resource consumption and pollution.
The 1,050-MW Bakreshwar power plant, managed by West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited, has been generating power since 2000. It was given no leaves for its performance. The highest performing plants in India received only three out of possible five leaves, indicating an overall underperforming nature of India’s thermal power sector.
In March, the court had demanded that the plant complete remedial activities to compensate affected residents and clean the river bed before the monsoon season in June. The show-cause notice has been issued in response to a petition filed by environmental activist Subhas Datta. The court has also reportedly found that the measures undertaken by the plant were inadequate.
GRP findings on Bakreshwar plant
The GRP study noted a number of issues by GRP in its assessment of the plant’s performance. These were – ash emission from the ash pond, high emission levels from the stacks, groundwater quality deterioration, poor management of hazardous waste and poor levels of ash utilization and lack of CSR activities. It was found that ash was being dumped in low-lying areas and the actual utilization was below 50 percent.
The plant’s management of its ash pond was another key issue reported by the neighboring communities. According to the local villagers, dust emissions from the ash pond severely impacted the villages located behind the ash pond. The neighboring communities also complained of ground water contamination. The West Bengal Pollution Control Board officials confirmed problems of ground water leaching near the ash pond. Satellite imagery, too, showed ash pond overflow into natural water stream passing through the ash pond area.
Thermal power sector in West Bengal
At nearly 14 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity, West Bengal has significant coal-fired power generating capacity in the country. The state is adding 4.7 GW of additional capacity which is in the pipeline. As part of the Green Ratings Project, CSE assessed four plants in West Bengal, capturing more than 40 per cent of the capacity comprising 10 GW as in 2012. These power plants were Damodar Valley Corporation, Mejia (2340 MW) CESC Ltd., Budge Budge (750 MW), West Bengal Power Development Corporation Ltd., Bandel (450 MW) and West Bengal Power Development Corporation Ltd, Bakreswar (1050 MW).
Although CESC Budge Budge plant was rated as the best in the country, overall, the West Bengal power sector’s performance was found to be very poor – three of the four plants that were studied scored less than 20 per cent, ending up in the bottom segment which received “no leaves” in the study.
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