The Vedanta 2024 aluminum plate refinery plant in Orissa is posing a major threat to crops in Srikakulam district. Thanks to the breaches to the red mud pond at the plant site in Langigarh of Kalahandi district, crops in lakhs of acres could wither with the overflowing mud mixing in the waters of the Vamsadhara, the major irrigation source for Srikakulam.
Not only crops, even the well-being of people living along the river course is affected as the river is polluted with effluents and hazardous chemicals released by the Vedanta plant mixing in the waters. Movement for People’s Centred Development (MPCD) warned that the fertile land would turn barren and people would develop skin problems if the pollution is allowed to continue.
The red soil, which is generated from the purifying process of bauxite, has been flowing downstream into the Vamsadhara from the plant site. The muddy waste, which has chemicals and heavy metals, is getting mixed in the nearby streams which merge with the river at various places before flowing into the Bay of Bengal. Representatives of Sikkolu Jalasadhana Samithi said the harmful red mud was polluting the ground water.
The Vamsadhara irrigates two lakh acres in Bhamini, Kotturu, Palasa, Nandigaon, Vajrapukotturu, Polaki, Santabommali, Kotabommali, Hiramandalam, Julumuru, L N Peta, Saravakota and Narasannapeta mandals in the district. Samithi convener Nalli Dharma Rao asked the authorities to act fast and stop the Vedanta plant from gobbling up the crops.
Scientist Professor Babu Rao said once the red mud gets mixed in the soil of the fertile land through irrigated water, it would not be easy to remove it. “The land would become barren and there would be no yield for several years,” he warned. He said the effluents were hazardous to human beings too.
The tribals of nearby villages are already complaining about skin rashes, severe joint pains and other health problems. “The water is unfit for consumption. But we are helpless,” a tribal of Polanki said.
Sources said the Vedanta plant has two ponds for storage of red mud. One of the ponds was completely filled, while the other was bursting with hazardous waste. “If a heavy downpour occurs near the plant site the ponds would develop breaches and the waste material would easily get mixed in the Vamsadhara waters,” Dharma Rao said.