A lake in Velladi where ash from power plants is released.
Through the small window in the Gram Panchayat room, I could see dust particles coming in. Shocked, I asked if it was the ash that the villagers were talking about. They told me this was not the ash, but dust from the harvest. They also told me this is how it would look like, in the evenings when the power plant spills the ash. Ash would settle on everything uncovered and everything out in the open.
Being in the close vicinity of the Deepnagar power plant, Vellade village of Jalgaon district ideally should enjoy the luxury of uninterrupted power supply. However in reality, they suffer at least a 6hr power cut every day. Very close to the village, there is a huge lake of ash, where pipelines coming from the Power plant release vast deposits of ash laden water. When the water dries up fly ash spreads all over the place and reaches the village.
It is not just ash that spreads through the air, but ash seeping into the underground water that is causing drinking water pollution, health problems and broken ash pipes spilling into fields are ruining the fields too.
Ash in the water that flows through the village.
Eshwar Hari Gosavi, a farmer from Vellade, took land on contract basis. The ash pipeline broke twice in his field covering everything in ash and killing the crop. He suffered losses, even the dried up crop that he planned to use as fodder for his animals was lost after being covered in ash. Deep in debt and landless, he works in others’ fields to support his family.
Prabhakar Gambhir, father of the expired Balchand Prabhakar, told me his son, Balchand, suffered from lung and liver problems for 3 years before he passed away few years ago and is survived by 3 children and wife. Seeing the stream that flows through the village, filled with ash and flowing in white, it was obvious that the ash was seeping into everything around causing health issues and environmental degradation. Even the village lake is slowly being inundated by the ash deposits, I am told even the fishes in the lake have been affected by the slow poison.
Village wells and farms are being covered in layer after layer of ash. We passed by canals where I could only find ash deposits. Subhash Vasudev Patil, a farmer from the village, tried desilting the well in field three times but soon the ash deposits filled his well again. Today he has given up on the well and depends solely on rainwater for his fields.
The sarpanch and few others once protested under the ash pipes to bring attention to the problematic disposal of ash but things haven’t changed much since then. Villages living in the shadow of the power plants surely deserve better disposal of fly ash and better living conditions that is not marred by ash in the air, in the Earth, in the water and in their bodies!
Images: © Neelima Vallangi/Greenpeace
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Neelima is a travel blogger and photographer. She travelled across the drought-hit regions of Maharastra to find out the reality of the situation in the area.
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