Ahead of a public hearing over Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Ltd’s (TANGEDCO) proposal to commission a bigger thermal plant at Ennore Thermal power station, startling allegations of fraud have been levelled at the state power utility. City based activists have accused the Corporation of falsifying data in its Environmental Impact Assessment report to justify the location of the project.
The draft EIA has been prepared for the construction of a 660 MW thermal power plant in the Ennore Industrial cluster. This is to replace the nearly five-decade-old decommissioned 450 MW plant. 216 samples were take from nine localities between July-September 2015.
According to an analysis conducted by the Coastal Resource Centre, not one of the samples taken by TANGEDCO's consultant in 2015, registered PM(particulate matter) 2.5 levels over 36.8 ug/m3. All results, the power utility, claimed, were within the permissible limits of 40 ug/m3.
"PM 2.5 is particulate matter that the nose cannot filter. It goes straight into the lungs and increases the risk of asthma, lung cancer and even heart attacks," explains Pooja Kumar of the Coastal Resource Centre.
"This data is completely different from what the central pollution control board (CPCB) has provided for the same period. TANGEDCO actually expects us to believe that the air in the Ennore Manali industrial cluster is the cleanest in the city," she adds. Tests done by the centre in Poes Garden and boat club, showed the PM 2.5 levels to be at 101 ug/m3 and 104.3 ug/m3, respectively.
The CPCB has stated in its records that the PM 2.5 levels recorded during the same period in the Manali station, ranges from 22.14 ug/m3 and 115.46 m3. The level of variation in the data provided by TANGEDCO has also added to the suspicion that they 'made up' the results. It varied merely between 19.3 and 36.8 ug/m3.
"There is an unusual and very suspect lack of variability in daily average pollutant levels," says Dr Mark Chernaik, Staff Scientist at Environmental Law Alliance worldwide. "This is wholly inconsistent with what we know about how daily average pollutant levels vary from day to day because of changes in cloud cover, temperature, humidity and wind," he adds.
From clearing a 240 acre wooded area to violating coastal regulation zone norms, the state power utility has shown scant regard for rules in the past. This time, it is no different, allege activists. "The Ennore region is already heavily polluted, making it difficult to set up the proposed plant there," says Pooja, "In the EIA, they have not even specified what method was used to measure the pollution," she adds.
Activists further allege that no new facilities have been planned to dispose the additional ash that will be generated in the new power plant. With multiple cards up their sleeve, the CRC, is now going to submit its arguments and also write to the Ministry of Environment Affairs and Forests, about TANGEDCO's disregard for rules.
"This is a serious fraud and attempt to downplay pollution levels. This will be taken up with the Centre," says Pooja. "TANGEDCO is an environmental hazard," she concludes.