NTPC’s ash pond in Kundanapalli raises concern

Ramagundam: Residents of Kundanapalli are again raising their voices against ash enveloping their village. The ash pond of the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) is located beside Kundanapalli of Ramagundam mandal.

Whenever there is a strong wind, especially in the summer season, ash spreads in surrounding areas and envelops Kundanapalli, and hence, the residents of the village complained about air pollution as well as groundwater. As a result, they have been exposed to various health issues such as skin allergies, breathing, eye and kidney problems.

The locals have been raising the issue since the inception of NTPC more than four decades ago. Large quantities of ash are generated when coal is burnt to generate thermal power. NTPC stores the ash by mixing it with water in the ash pond spread in about 1,200 acres besides Kundanapalli, near Ramagundam railway station.

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The NTPC management has since adopted the village and provided various facilities. Besides supplying drinking water by laying pipelines in the village, medical camps are also organised every month to provide treatment to local people.

Since there doesn’t seem to be an end to the problem, the villagers recently launched an agitation demanding that the NTPC management relocate their village. In this regard, they passed a resolution in village panchayat on December 21 last year and submitted a representation to the AGM (HR), NTPC, on January 5. A complaint was also lodged with the Pollution Control Board.

Based on the complaint, the PCB Ramagundam zonal officials recently collected samples from the village and sent them to Warangal zonal lab for testing.

Speaking to Telangana Today, Mekala Srinivas, a resident, said the locals were suffering from health problems due to pollution of air and groundwater. Groundwater has been polluted due to the storage of ash mixed water in the ash pond, he alleged.

“People develop skin allergies if they take bath using groundwater. A number of people have developed breathing problems and four villagers died of kidney disease,” he said, and alleged that NTPC was not conducting medical camps in the last two years under the pretext of Covid. So, we decided to intensify our agitation to mount pressure on NTPC to relocate the village,” he said.

Executive Engineer, Telangana Pollution Control Board, Ramagundam zonal office, K Ravi Das said they had collected samples from the village and sent them to Warangal zonal lab for testing. “We will come to know the extent of air and groundwater pollution once we get the results,” he said.

There also seems to be another twist to the issue. A villager, on condition of anonymity, said the main issue was a denial of contract for shifting ash to a villager this year, as has been the practice for years, and this led to unrest among a section of the youth.

Since Kundanapalli is an NTPC-affected village, the management used to give one of the villagers to shift ash every year. The person who gets the permission used to pay Rs 6 lakh to the gram panchayat towards village development, he said.

Blaming a contractor from outside who had permission to take 60 lorry-loads of ash , the villager said he was, however, shifting about 150 lorry-loads of ash with the support of a local political leader, and was not allowing anyone from the village to pick up the ash.

Each lorry load of ash is sold at Rs 25,000 in erstwhile Karimnagar district as well as Hyderabad, the villager said, adding that each lorry-load contains 30 to 40 tons of ash.
The demand for ash has increased substantially since it is used in the manufacture of cement bricks, brick kilns, building construction where it is mixed with sand and cement and other purposes.

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