Raipur, 16 November 2017: A health study conducted by medical and public health experts of People First Collective India has found serious health problems among the residents living around coal mines and thermal power plants in Tamnar block of Raigarh district, Chhattisgarh. The study titled Health and Environmental Impact of Coal Mining in Chhattisgarh, surveyed more than 500 people in 3 villages of Tamnar Block within 2-kilometer radius of power plants and coalmines. According to the report “health-related complaints identified amongst participants in this study are significantly high. Ten most prevalent chronic health conditions among residents interviewed included hair loss and brittle hair; musculoskeletal joint pain, body ache and backache; dry, itchy and/or discoloured skin and cracked sole; and dry cough complaints.” Also according to the findings of the study, “women predominantly experienced these chronic health problems of which dry cough and shortness of breath (77%), hair loss (76%) and musculoskeletal/joint pain (68%) were most prevalent”.
The report finds that their “research reveals that exposure to dangerous levels of toxic substances including heavy metals found in air, water, soil and sediment samples are likely to be connected to poor human health experienced by residents in the vicinity of these industries”.
According to Dr. Manan Ganguli, one of the Principal Investigators of the study, “the findings of this study are significant and demand immediate remedial measures. Our report reveals that large-scale mining, coal-fired power plants and associated industries have likely inflicted lasting negative impacts on the population living for generations in the Raigarh region of Chhattisgarh. Their environment, physical and mental health appear to have been severely compromised.”
According to Dr. Smarajit Jana who led the medical camp for the study, “very few local residents in the neighborhood of mining and power plants experience good health. We saw multiple health complaints among individuals, and medically it indicates more than one route of exposure to toxins. We also saw more than one family member experiencing identical or similar health complaints. It was shocking to see strikingly high levels of musculoskeletal health complaints among people of young age. We found more complaints of dry and not productive cough, which indicates allergens, and not pathogens are causing these symptoms. These health symptoms corroborate with effects of toxic chemicals found in the environmental sampling of water, air and soil in the region.”
The study also noted “12 cases of Tuberculosis (TB) were identified amongst Sarasmal’s 341 respondents where respondents were currently or had recently completed treatment. The prevalence of this disease also requires further investigating as a much higher incidence of hidden TB and/or silicosis conditions might be prevalent due to environmental reasons.” It also found “kidney-related health issues and diabetes were frequently reported,” but in the absence of substantiating diagnostic information, could not be adequately explored. Similarly findings relating to mental illness and disability, which also “appeared to be prevalent, and have been confirmed by a psychiatrist” of the study’s medical team, were not fully investigated due to time and resource constraint.
The study recommends
An imposition of a moratorium on any further expansion of the existing mines or setting up of new coalmines until comprehensive health impact assessments of the mines and power plants are completed and their recommendations are implemented.
It calls for the state and central agencies to carry a more in-depth study to identify the nature and extent of pollution in communities around coal mines and coal-fired power plants, and undertake clean up measures – air, soil and water sources (surface and underground).
The study also calls for the state government to provide proper health care and specialised treatments free of cost for all residents living within 5 KM of coalmines and coal- fired power plants with immediate effect.
The health study was conducted on behest of the local communities who have been complaining about health problems and serious environmental violations in the region for some time. In November 2016, a two-member independent fact finding team too had documented a series of serious environmental violations of the mines, coal washeries and thermal power plants in the region. The regulatory agencies and the state government are yet to take any action on the violations of the coal mines and the power plants in the region.
About the results of environmental sampling: In August this year, Chennai based Community Environmental Monitoring had released a study titled “Report on the Environmental Sampling around the Coal Mines, Thermal Power Plants and Ash Ponds in Tamnar & Gharghoda Blocks of Raigarh, Chhattisgarh”.
According to the study, a total of 12 toxic metals including Aluminum, Arsenic, Antimony, Boron, Cadmium, Chromium, Lead, Manganese, Nickel, Selenium, Zinc and Vanadium were found in water, soil and sediment samples taken around the region out of which Aluminium up to 5.6 times; Arsenic 1.7 times; Chromium 10 times of the recommended standards for drinking water. The presence of particulate matters in air was found to be 2.8 times higher than the Indian standard. In addition, particulate matters carrying Aluminum, Arsenic, Silicon and Sulphur are much higher than acceptable standards.
Out of the 12 toxic metals found, 2 are carcinogens and 2 are probable carcinogens. Arsenic and Cadmium are known carcinogens and Lead and Nickel are probable carcinogens.
Many of the metals cause respiratory disorders, shortness of breath, lung damage, reproductive damage, liver and kidney damage, skin rashes, hair loss, brittle bones, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains, muscle and joint pain and weakness etc.
List of Industries in the vicinity of the health study and sampling site:
Dongamahua Captive Power Plant of Jindal Power Ltd.
Gare IV/1, Gare IV/2 and Gare IV/3 coal mines operated by South Eastern Coalfields Ltd
Gare Pelma IV and Gare Pelma V operated by HINDALCO Ltd
O P Jindal Power Plant at Tamnar
Coal Handling Plant of Gare IV/2 and IV/3 at Libra operated by Jindal Power Ltd.
For more details, please contact
Rinchin: +91 94253 77349
Dr. Manan Ganguli: +91 84209 06797
Shweta Narayan: +91 80560 24315