Akshay Deshmane
Issue Date:

Modernisation will increase pollution, say residents

Residents and political parties of Chembur in Mumbai have rejected Tata Power’s plans to modernise Unit 6 of its Trombay Thermal Power Station, show recently released minutes of a public hearing held in January. The company plans to convert fuel of the unit 6 of the power plant from low sulphur heavy stock/ low sulphur fuel oil (LSHS/LSFO) to low sulphur imported coal. The residents say the modernisation would lead to extreme pollution.

The Tata Power Company-owned thermal power station at Trombay has an installed capacity of 1,580 MW with five units, two coal powered, one each using oil and gas, and one a combined cycle power plant. One unit is on standby.

The minutes of the meeting, which was forcefully suspended by political parties, were compiled by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). Seema Mahulkar, a Mahul village resident, says, “The modernisation project (has been) proposed by Tata Power due to economic constraints and to meet the power demand of Mumbai city is going to consume more coal and this will increase pollution in Chembur area. There is already effect of pollution on the health of people living in Mahul, Gawanpada, Ambapada, Trombay, Mandala and Mankhurd villages.”

Unanswered questions

Advocate Naina Pardeshi sought to highlight the violation of natural law of justice. “The environmental impact assessment (EIA) report is prepared by a Tata research institute. This is against natural justice. TCE Consulting Engineers is one of the shareholding institutes of Tata Group, which has prepared this report and thus cannot be impartial. Hence it is very essential to keep it aside,” she says, adding “Neither the present rate of electricity is given nor the details of the concession given to customers after the project is mentioned…cost of sulphur dioxide removal plant is in crores…this cost is not mentioned. Ash will be utilised for brick making and mixing in cement concrete. Where are such projects located nearby? Where will this ash be taken? What are the effects of ash if it is spilled during transportation?”

Resident Suprada Prakash Fatarfekar questioned the quality of regulation done by MPCB over pollution caused by existing industries in the vicinity. “What measures has MPCB taken for the abatement of pollution in Mahul and Ambapada villages? What measures has MPCB taken for the abetment of pollution due to HPCL and BPCL? First stop existing pollution due to these industries. I would like to tell you that vomiting and dizziness are old stories, now women are suffering from miscarriages. Who is responsible for this?” she asked.

Local member of Legislative Assembly Chandrakant Handore demands a fresh EIA report be prepared by “other well known organisations” like NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute).

Dirty fuel to replace cleaner fuels

In a separate note sent to the MPCB and the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Debi Goenka, trustee of Conservation Action, has raised 62 queries about the EIA report prepared by the Tata Consulting Engineers and comments and suggestions on as many as 92 Terms of Reference finalised by the Expert Appraisal Committee of MoEF. The activist, who filed a case against a similar plan by the company in the Bombay High Court, said his essential allegation was against the company’s stated claim of “modernisation” itself. “Coal burning power plant technology is more than 100 years old. This does not seem to be a “modernisation” but a subterfuge to change from clean fuels such as gas and oil to a dirty fuel such as coal.”

Officials from the MPCB’s Mumbai divisional office said the ball is now in the MoEF’s court as far as clearance for the conversion is concerned. Tata Power Company Limited did not respond to all queries and allegations despite a detailed email questionnaire sent by Down To Earth.

However, company officials pointed to its position on some of the allegations, articulated in a few of the public statements made by the company. On the question of using a Tata group company for preparing the EIA report, it said, “ The EIA for the proposed modernisation plan was conducted as per the Terms of Reference approved MoEF. The study was carried out by TATA Consulting Engineers Ltd, which is an independent agency approved and accredited by Quality Council of India (QCI) NABET for conducting such studies.”

In its previous statement concerning pollution control initiatives, the company claimed to have implemented the following measures:

  • At the Trombay Thermal Power Station, environment management is one of the key focus areas. This is ensured through emission controls, fuel controls, efficiency and heat rate improvement and stringent monitoring of ambient air quality.
  • In addition to using low sulphur high calorific value imported coal, additional flue gas desulfurization (FGD) and Electrostatic Precipitators (ESP) are also being installed to conform to presently prescribed stringent SO2 emissions norm and to prevent particulate matter from escaping into the environment.
  • The ash generated and collected by the ESP will be used in ready mix concrete (RMC) to make cement bricks by infrastructure companies.
  • The dust emission during coal handling and storage within the premises will be sustainably suppressed by using recycled water, while an enclosed unloading system (screw-type unloader) will be used to minimize dust emission during unloading of coal from barges.
  • Adequate green cover around the coal yard has been developed to control fugitive dust emission during the coal handling operations. Areas around coal stock yard and coal handling unit area is developed as a shelter belts with plantation of bamboos and other species.
  • Water spraying system is installed at coal yard as well as coal berth to further control fugitive coal dust.