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Toxic gas from smelter plant damages crop in Hirakud
Farmers in Hirakud are protesting against the Hindalco aluminium smelter plant for emitting poisonous gas, which has damaged their paddy crops spread across 113 acres of land. They have also demanded immediate compensation from the factory management.
IN THE morning of September 19, 2008, farmers in Nuagujatal and Gundurupada village near Hindalco aluminium smelter plant in Hirakud NAC of Sambalpur district, found that their paddy crops have turned from green to yellow. The local farmers were surprised to see the change overnight and when they looked around the other standing trees similar affect was noticed in the trees also. As per the local farmers, this is a regular phenomenon, which occurs every year and leads to damage of crops but in the year 2003, the local farmer association had revolted against the nearby aluminum smelter plant holding it responsible for the damage and the protest continued for nearly three months and finally, the factory was forced to provide compensation to the farmers.

This time when there was a heavy downpour, the factory released its noxious emission, mostly fluoride wastes, which in contact with the rain water became acid rain and damaged the crop, as alleged by the Jayadurga Krishak Sangha and other agricultural scientists. As per the claim of the affected farmers, the total affected area is around 113 acres. The people protested against the factory management and district administration and demanded immediate enquiry by experts into the incident. Accordingly, the samples were taken by the Orissa State Pollution Control Board, District Agriculture Office and Environmental Science Department of Sambalpur University.

Meanwhile, the farmers association had given October 6 as deadline to the company and district administration to consider their demands for compensation. It is informed that the factory management has agreed to pay Rs 10,500 per acre as compensation and will take preventive measures to avoid such hazardous gas leaks in future.

Similar incident had earlier taken place in Nalco smelter plant areas in Angul, Orissa in 2005 and the government had declared ex-gratia of Rs 35 lakh to the affected farmers.

Probable emission from smelter plant:

Name of the emission
Affect on living organism
Hydrogen Fluoride
lung and bladder cancer, bone deformity, teeth decay etc and necrosis in plants
Sulphur Dioxide
Respiratory problems, corrosive to plants and buildings, acid rain
Pungent Odour
Perfluorocardon gases
Contribute to global warming, higher temperatures
Oxides of Nitrogen
Air pollution
Highly toxic and explosive
Class 3 indicators
Extremely hazardous, carcinogenic, teratogenic, mutagenic, highly toxic
Castor Oil
used as a lubricant when discharged is harmful to the environment
Polychlorinated biphenyls
Group of chlorinated organic compounds, soil contaminant.
Spent pot lining (SPL)
Contains fluoride and cyanide, soil contaminant

The process produces a quantity (as small as 0.5 kg per tonne of aluminum in the best plants in 2007, up to four kg per tonne of aluminum in older designs in 1974) of fluoride waste: perfluorocarbons and hydrogen fluoride as gases, and sodium andaluminum fluorides and unused cryolite as particulates. So accordingly, around six lakh kg of fluoride wastes are generated taking 1.5lakh tonne per annum as the production capacity of the Hirakud smelter plant.
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