Two villagers - a 35-year-old man and an eight-year-old boy - have died and five are missing after a breach in an artificial pond that stores toxic residue from a coal power plant run by Reliance Power in Madhya Pradesh's Singrauli on April 10.
It is the world's largest integrated power generation and coal mining project, and Reliance Power's flagship project. The project comprised of six units of 660 MW each.
Fly ash is a powdery byproduct of burning pulverized coal while an ash pond is an engineered structure used at fossil fuel power stations.
Over 6 villages affected, crop fields destroyed
According to a local journalist Prabhat, this is the third incident that has happened in last one year. "Even after strict orders from National Green Tribunal, the authorities of power plants never followed them resulting in these incidents. First NTPC, then Essar and now reliance ash pound dam has broken down," he said.
Sources in Madhya Pradesh said at least six people went missing after the incident. Over 6 villages are affected, crop fields have been destroyed.
A team of 30 members of the National Disaster Response Force or NDRF is involved in the search operation for other villagers.
Singrauli, home to 10 coal-based power plants
Singrauli, an area shared with Uttar Pradesh where it falls under Sonbhadra district, is home to 10 coal-based power plants with a capacity of over 21,000 megawatt – the largest for one region. These plants have made Singrauli the second most critically polluted industrial zone in the country after Ghaziabad, according to the Central Pollution Control Board.
An ash dam, constructed by Essar Power Plant was broken in august last year due to incessant rains in the area, followed by another run by NTPC Ltd in October.
“Initial investigations reveal that there was negligence on the part of the power company. The spill has damaged crops and soil,” said KVS Chaudhary, Singrauli District Collector.
He added, "We are trying to evacuate people who are trapped. Crop loss will be assessed. We will take strict action."