Hyderabad: Coal-based thermal power stations in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, especially those run by TSGenco and APGenco, are failing to dispose of coal ash efficiently.
Pollution Control Board officials from both states revealed that while notices were sent to almost all the thermal power plants regarding improper disposal of ash, most of them were sent to plants run by these state government franchises.
A TSPCB official said, “Coal-based power plants are disposing the ash as of now in ash ponds or giving them away for free to fly ash brick manufacturers. However, this is not being done properly. Another method for ash disposal, which was suggested recently, was dumping the ash in coal mines that have been shut down. However, the issue remains as ash gets washed out easily unlike sand which is used to fill gaps in coal mines that are shut.”
Another major issue among coal-based power plants in both states is lack of usage of modern electrostatic precipitators.
While some of the plants have bought the equipment, they are unable to get the permission from the state governments to connect these precipitators in their plants as for this the plants need to be shut down for more than a month.
With the power crisis looming large in both states, none of the governments are ready to shut down the plants for the sake of pollution control.
There are four coal-based power plants each being run by TSGENCO and APGENCO in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh respectively.
There are more than 60 such power plants on the anvil most of which are for Andhra Pradesh.
Of these there are more than 30 coal-based power plants that are of 1000 MW capacity or more. Some of them are mega power projects with planned capacities of more than 4000 MW.
If these projects materialize then almost every district of AP will have a coal-based thermal power plant.
A more recent and major concern in Telangana is the 7600 MW proposed coal-based thermal power plant in Dameracherla in Nalgonda district.
Experts say thermal plants pose environmental risks
The proposed 7,600 MW coal-based thermal power plant in Nalgonda in Telangana and expansion plans of existing coal-based thermal power plants in Andhra Pradesh may have serious environmental repercussions, warn experts.
Former union power secretary E.A.S. Sarma said, “The number of coal-based thermal power plants that have been accorded permission or are at various stages of getting clearances from the ministry of environment and forests are about three times the power requirement projection for 2032. There is no need to develop new thermal power projects.”
He added, “The power demand is not the same throughout the day, and it peaks only for a few hours. The generation capacity cannot be changed as per the power needs in case of coal-based plants,. However, it can be done in hydel power plants. Coal-based plants cannot always function at optimum levels and will have to be kept idle sometimes. They are useful only for satisfying base power needs whereas hydel projects can easily satisfy peak hour power needs.”
Environmental pollution, health issues and negative impact on agriculture are the other major concerns associated with coal-based power plants. These plants have been categorised as among the '17 Highly Polluting Industries’ by the MoEF. The ash released by coal-based plants contain harmful chemicals like cadmium, mercury, lead and arsenic which are carcinogenic.
Mr Sarma said, “People living near the Simhadri super thermal power plant run by NTPC in Vizag have complained of bronchitis, skin problems and there have been cases of cancer too. Groundwater has been polluted and people are now forced to get water from the tankers supplied by the power plant. There have also been extensive agricultural losses. Telangana state government officials should visit those areas and see the ground reality before they go ahead establishing the mega coal-based plant in Nalgonda.”