Singrauli is one of the twenty-two critically polluted areas identified by the Central Pollution Control Board. " />
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Singrauli: Pollution From Thermal Power Plants

Location:
Uttar Pradesh, India
Region:
South Asia,
Pollutants:
Air Pollution, Fly Ash, Heavy Metals, Mercury
Source:
Power Plant
Transmission:
air, water, soil
Potentially affected people:
185,500

The problem

Ever since 1840, when coal was discovered in Singrauli, the area's development has revolved around exploiting this natural resource. Singrauli has been nicknamed India’s “Energy Capital”. The five super thermal power plants in the Singrauli area, which supply 10% of India’s power, are responsible for 16% or 10 tons per annum of total mercury pollution through power generation. According to ToxicLinks.org, Singrauli presently accounts for 10% of total Indian and 0.3% of global carbon dioxide emission, a major reason for global warming.

A widely cited but unpublished study by Electricité de France reveals that Singrauli's thermal power plants release about 720 kilograms of mercury per year. The UN cited an Indian Central Pollution Control board estimate that "17 percent of power plant mercury emissions are from the Singrauli region." Fly ash, the byproduct of coal combustion, is also a significant problem. The coal-burning power plants release about six million tons of fly ash a year, making land unfit for cultivation. In parts of Singrauli, the fly ash lies in piles five feet thick.

Singrauli is one of the twenty-two critically polluted areas identified by the Central Pollution Control Board.

Health Impact

A United Nations Environment Program report stated that mercury levels in the blood and hair of tested Singrauli residents were higher than normal. Exposure to sufficiently high levels of mercury can cause permanent damage to the nervous system and brain, kidneys and developing fetus. The health effects from exposure to fly ash range from permanent respiratory disorders, aggravation of ailments like asthma, bronchitis, and even lung cancer due to prolonged inhalation.

The Industrial Toxicology Research Centre (ITRC), Lucknow studied environmental risks due to mercury in the Singrauli area. Over 1200 persons residing in the area were clinically examined. The major finding was that mean mercury blood levels and mercury levels in hair were significantly higher in Singrauli residents than in the control population. Children had respiratory problems, diarrhea, abdominal pain and worm infestation. Lower IQ levels were also observed in some children. Headaches, still-births, menstrual irregularities and sterility were some of the problems experienced by women living in the area.

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