Oct 25 2008

Toxic gas from smelter damages crop

INDIA – Farmers in Hirakud, Orissa 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 an early morning in September farmers in Nuagujatal and Gundurupada village near Hindalco aluminium smelter plant in Hirakud NAC of Sambalpur district, found that their paddy crops had turned from green to yellow. They were surprised to see the change happening so quickly, overnight, and when they looked around similar symptoms were noticed in the trees.
The yellowing had been a regular phenomenon in the area, which occurs every year. This time the factory had released noxious emission, mostly fluoride wastes, when there was a heavy downpour. With the rain water the fumes became toxic rain and damaged the crop, allege agricultural scientists.

The Hirakud farmers and villagers 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 six as a deadline to the company and district administration to consider their demands for compensation. The factory management says it will pay Rs 10,500 (165 Euros) per acre as compensation and says it will take preventive measures to avoid such hazardous gas leaks in future.

However, this is not the first time such an incident took place. In 2003, the local farmer association also revolted against the Hindalco aluminium smelter holding it responsible for damage from pollution. The protest continued for nearly three months. Finally, the factory was forced to provide compensation to the farmers.
A similar incident also took place with the Nalco smelter in Angul, Orissa in 2005.

Smelter emissions
Type Effect
Hydrogenfluoride Lung, bladder, pancreatic cancer, bone deformity, teeth decay, and necrosis in plants
Sulphurdioxide Respiratory problems, foul odour, corrosive to buildings, acid rain, necrosis in plants
Perfluorocarbons Highly potent greenhouse gas
Nitrous oxide Acid rain, greenhouse effect
Benzene Carcinogenic, teratogenic
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) Highly persistant in soils, accumulates in animals, skin disorders, menstrual disorders, immune defficiencies

The smelting process produces between 0.5 kg fluoride waste per tonne of aluminum in the best plants, up to four kg per tonne of aluminum in older designs: perfluorocarbons and hydrogen fluoride as gases, and sodium andaluminum fluorides and unused cryolite as particulates. The Hirakud plant produces approximately 150.000 t of waste per annum.

2 Responses to “Toxic gas from smelter damages crop”

  1. Someone says:

    Farmers residing around the Hindalco complex in Hirakud are facing this problem for as long time with regular intervals; this one is the latest of the debacles being unleashed on them. I had visited the area just two days after the noxious gas burnt the paddy crop this year, and have also filmed the degree of damage along with the views of the local people… It has been a pattern now that Hindalco – without caring for any regulatory norms – goes on the rampage and when compensation is demanded they just confuse the people and at times threaten them… Not only this, effluent from the plant is openly released to the only water stream the surrounding villagers depend on; and Hindalco for some years has been slowly encroaching into the various small hills around its complex, which the villagers say work as walls protecting them from the toxic emissions from the plant…

    The biggest irony is that this plant is a CDM project, which earns Hindalco crores of rupees: for being a ‘clean’ project.

    One encouraging thing that I noticed this time was that people, mostly women, were determined to force Hindalco to reach a solution to their problems… The fact is that they do not have an alternative source for livelihood once the paddy crop is gone…

    I plan to visit the area again in November…

  2. Sigurður Magnússon says:

    See also:

    Pollution from Smelters Damages Teeth in Sheep

    Frumvinnsla áls – Lýsing á hinni mengandi og orkufreku framleiðslu álbarra. Þýtt úr ’Foiling the Aluminum Industry’