Gasping on flyash

THOUSANDS in the Kolaghat area of Midnapore district in West Bengal are suffering from silicosis, due to dumps of flyash generated by Kolaghat's 1,260 megawatt thermal power project, according to a retently published booklet, Anusandhan: Jal, Vayu, Matee, compiled by Nagarik Manch, a Calcutta-based group. Silicosis is a major respirlory affliction, caused by sustained exposure to "active silica" floating around in very fine dust form and lodgiig itself in the respiratory tract. This is the first systematic field report on'this problem.

The report,says that apart from "active silica" lead, manganese, chromium and even traces of radioactive uranium have been found in , Kolaghat's atmosphere.

The entire rural economic activity has been thrown out of gear due to these health problems. Of the total amount 'of the famous Bangla paan (betel leaf of Bengal) sold in the the country and abroad, 75 per cent came from Kolaghat and adjoining areas, Kolaghat is also one of the main flower producing centres which cater to national and international markets. Both these farming activities have been severely affected, reports Anusandhan.

The fishing activity of the area has also suffered, and almost 200 fishing families living in nearby Aror village woe forced to give up their livelihood.

West Bengal produces around 40.5 milli6. in to Aes of flyash each year, of which -1,,olaghat accounts for 30 in tonnes. The coal used here produces 40 per cent of its weight in ash after burning. Anusandhan reports that the 3 sink ponds in Kolaghat are already brimming with ash, and the authorities are digging more ponds. According to Anusandhan, it is possible to make 30 lakh bricks every year from flyash generated by Kolaghat. However, figures show that only 50,000 are being produced annually.

Hundred families which have been displaced due to the Kolaghat project and "resettled" in Shrikrishnapur Rehabilitation Centre are living without the basic minimum civic amenities, and, ironically, without even the power for which they were rendered homeless.