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Coal Mines in Maharashtra polluting River Water, Contaminating Drinking Water Sources

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Jinda Sandbhor, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, Published on 8 Aug 2015.

Crossing the bridge on river Wardha in November 2014 on the way to Wani from Ghuggus village in
Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, I saw an unusual waterfall on the left side of the bridge. No source
of water like stream or rivulet cannot be seen. Looking at the waterfall, it struck me that the waterfall is
having muddy water months after end of monsoon. As I got closer to the waterfall the stark reality
unfolded. The colour of waterfall is almost red and there is layer of oil, grease settled on river water. An
entire stretch of the river is coloured red. According to local activists the source of the water in the
waterfall is the mine discharge of Ghuggus Opencast Coal (GOC) mine of Western Coalfileds Ltd (WCL).
This coal mine is situated exactly on the left bank of river Wardha.

Left image shows Mine discharge water of Ghuggus Open Cast (GOC) coal mine falling in River Wardha. Right image shows
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oil and grease layer on river water where mine discharge of GOC meets Wardha. Photographs taken on 16 Nov 2014 by
Author.

Not just this, but the entire stretch of Wardha River from Majri to Rajura village in Chandrapur district of
Maharashtra is lined on the sides by overburden dumps of coal mines on both the banks. Overburden is
the topsoil and rock which is above the coal deposits and is removed during surface mining to reach the
coal. During my visit to this area I saw overburden dumps are on/near the banks of river Wardha. There
is absence of retention walls, catch drain and green cover1 on overburden dumps which are near and
almost on the banks of river Wardha. Silt and water coming out from these dumps is directly entering
into the river. The same situation was seen during visit to River Iraie and Amala nala which are major
tributaries on left bank of river. Red coloured mine discharge water from Navin Kunada, Juna Kunada
Naigaon, Telwasa, Dhorwasa and Ghuggus open cast coal mines is directly/indirectly entering into
Wardha River and polluting it. Field reports of the Maharashtra Pollution control Board2 show that mine
discharge water coming out from Telwasa, Dhorwasa, Navin Kunanda and Juna Kunada open cast coal
mine is acidic in nature showing pH value below 53. This indicates its highly acidic nature. Without

According to environment clearances of coal mines, all overburden dumps should have retention wall with weep holes, catch drains and
should be stabilized by green cover. The mining authority should submit status of such compliance in every six months of mining operations to
the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change.
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Manthan had visited coal mines area around river Wardha on 13 Nov 2013. During this visit issue of water pollution due to mine discharge
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had came in focus. As a result of these local reporters reported related news in news paper on 8 December 2013. As a result of this regional
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officer of MPCB visited the area on 9 December 2013 and made a joint visit report, which clearly indicate violations of consent to operate
conditions and validate all issues raised by Manthans field visit findings.
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According the joint visit report of MPCB regional office to WCL Majri area on 9 December 2013 there is discharge of mine water having pH 2
to 3 into River Wardha directly/through Kondha nala from Dhorwasa, Telwasa, Navin Kunada and Juna Kunada Open cast coal mines. According

proper handling and treatment when this acidic mine discharge water comes in contact with natural
environment it increases solubility of metals from their composite forms4. As a result the concentration
of heavy metals in mine drainage is likely to be more and due to direct discharge of untreated acidic
mine discharge water threat of water contamination in Wardha River is bound to increase. The area
where acidic mine water is discharged in the river is upstream, of source of drinking water for towns like
Bhadravati, Ghuggus and Ballarpur. There are also numerous villages on the banks of the river
dependent on drinking and sanitation water supply from this river. The acidic mine discharge water is
threatening health of people living in surrounding areas who are dependent on river for their drinking
water.

Mine Discharge water of Naigaon Open Cast coal mine meets directly to river Wardha (left photo). Image on right is Google
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earth image of same point. Photographs taken on 16 Nov 2014 by author.

Left photo shows mine discharge water coming out from Telwasa open cast coal mine meeting river Wardha and right photo
is of mine discharge water discharged from Majri Open cast mine without sedimentation process in local drain which meets
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Kondha nala and ultimately river Wardha. Photographs taken on 17 Nov 2014 by Author.

to Central Pollution Control Boards standards for coal mines under Environment Protection Rules, 1986, the pH of mine water discharge into
natural environment should be between 5.5 to 9.0.
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According to a research report published by Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research India titled Studies on environmental impact of acid
mine drainage generation and its treatment: An appraisal, 2010 (page no. 956): Low pH of mine drainage results in solubility of heavy metals in
water and its high concentration causes toxicological effects on aquatic ecosystems. Acute exposure of high concentration of metals can kill
organisms directly while long term exposure to lower can cause mortality or other effects, such as stunned growth, lower reproduction rates
deformities and lesions (Lewis and Clark 1996)
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Mine discharge water of Naigaon Open Cast coal is pumped through deep bore wells situated on the bank of the coal mine. According to a
site official these bore wells are made to pump out water from abandoned underground coal mine,which in turn drain the water accumulated
in Naigaon and Ghuggus Open Cast coal mines.

On 3rd Feb 2015 the Maharashtra state government shocked people in the Vidharbha mines area and
environmental activists by announcing the scrapping of its River Regulation Zoning (RRZ) policy. This
policy was made in the year 2000 and was amended in year 2009. The main aim of this policy was to
regulate siting of industries from High Flood Lines (HFL) of river according to their pollution category6. As
a result of this policy there were 7 coal mines7 around river Wardha which were not getting consent to
operate from the Consent Appraisal Committee (CAC) of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).
These coal mines were violating the norms of this policy as their locations were near or on the bank of
river Wardha. After scrapping RRZ policy for now there is absence of any siting criteria for setting up any
industrial units around rivers of Maharashtra. This decision of Maharashtra state government has made
it more critical to tackle issue of water pollution in river Wardha.

Google earth Images of year 2013 and 2014 shows that the overburden dump of Mungoli Open cast coal mine which was on
the bank of river Wardha during year 2013 (Left image) entered into Riverbed during year 2014 (right image). This has been
verified during site visit by Manthan team.

Left image intake well of drinking water supply to Mungoli coal mine colony which is downstream of mine discharge of
Naigaon and Ghuggus opencast coal mines in river Wardha. Right image, of intake well of Bhadravati Town in river Wardha.
Mine discharge of Majri, Navin Kundada and Juna Kunada coal mines meets river Wardha upstream of this intake well.
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According to RRZ policy 2009, for A-II class rivers, half kilometre distance from High Flood Line (HFL) should be no
development zone, between the half kilometre to 1 kilometre zone, green category industries will be allowed, in the 1 to 2
kilometre zone orange category industries will be allowed and red category industries will be allowed beyond 2 kilometres on
either side of river. Coal mines comes under red category industry. As per MPCB website entire stretch of Wardha River from
boundary of Madhya Pradesh to confluence with Wainganga River comes under A-II class of rivers.
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According to the Minutes of 12 Meeting of Consent Appraisal Committee of MPCB, meeting held on 23 April 2013, the
consent to establish for Naigaon Opencast Mine, Bellora-Naigaon Deep Open Cast Expansion Project was rejected due to
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violation of RRZ policy. According to news article published in Times of India on 29 March 2015, Consent Appraisal Committee
(CAC) of MPCB has rejected consent to operate/establish of Mungoli, Dhorwasa, Telwasa, Ukni, Telwasa Yekona-I and Yekona-II
open cast coal mine of Western Coalfields Ltd (WCL)due to non-compliance with RRZ policy. The news article further says that
these coal mines will be benefited from scrapping of RRZ policy by getting consent to operate/establish.

The Consent Appraisal Committee of MPCB is responsible for providing consent to operate and consent
to establish under WaterAct, 1974 and Air Act 1981 of India. In recent period it can be seen that this CAC
is being more active in sidelining environment. During visit of Manthan team to Ghuggus and Naigaon
coal mine area on 16th Nov 2014 it becomes evident that the mine discharge water from both the mines
is polluting river Wardha. In relation to this on 19th Nov 2014 local and national print media reported the
issue of water pollution due to mine discharge water in river Wardha from Ghuggus Open Cast coal mine
(GOC) and Naigaon Opencast Coal (NOC) mine. Local activist filed related complaint to regional office of
MPCB Chandrapur on 20th Nov 2014. In reply to this sub regional officer of MPCB Chandrapur visited the
area on 1st Dec 2014 and reported that :

Further it says that GOC coal mine is not following the conditions and further action should be started by
higher authorities. During visit to the area by Manthan, as shown in images earlier the mine discharge
water was red in colour and there was oil and grease layer on water. As this report says that water is
discharged outside from ETP, Manthan team suspects that the oil and grease layer on discharged water
is due to non-functioning of ETP of GOC coal mine. As a result regional officer of MPCB wrote to CAC on
5th December 2014 asking it to take action against the mine. However till present there is absence of any
action. Subsequently the CAC have approved consent to operate to GOC.
On 27th March 2015 Smt Shobhatai Fadanavis, Member of Legislative Council brought an attention
motion in the Maharashtra state assembly related to pollution issues of Chandrapur district of
Vidharbha region. The motion said that there is an issue of water, air and land pollution due to industrial
units and coal mines. Due to bad air quality people living in surrounding areas are suffering from
respiratory illnesses. Times of India reported on 28th March 2015 that, in response to Smt Shobhatai
Fadanaviss motion the environment minister of the state had announced that four polluting industrial
units namely Bilt Graphics Paper Products Ltd, Awantha Power and Infrastructure Ltd, Karnataka Emta
Coal Mine and Wardha Power Company Ltd will be closed due to issues of pollution. At the same time
he announced that the bank guarantee of 24 industries will be forfeited due to ongoing pollution.
According to the local activist and reporters all the four projects are working and still polluting the
environment without any state control.

The state Environment Department and State Pollution Control board have failed to implement effective
measures to control pollution and restore environment in and around critically polluted area of
Chandrapur district. From political executive side there is lack of will to take strong action. As stated
above the issue of pollution is raised and debated on different platforms. However there is absence of
any action oriented results. The MPCB and CAC have active roles in controlling pollution, but these are
diluted due to lack of resources and state support. Unfortunately, ground situation of pollution
continues as it is, and people around river Wardha are forced to drink river water which is mixed with
acid mine drain and overburden silt.
This article is published in Blog post of Jinda Sandbhor on website of Manthan Adhyayan Kenrda. More
details related to this article can be accessed through following link
http://jinda.manthan-india.org/coal-mines-in-maharashtra-polluting-river-water-contaminatingdrinking-water-sources/

References
1. MPCB (2013): Joint Visit Report 9th December 2013, Maharashtra state Pollution Control Board,
regional office Chandrapur, Maharashtra, India.
2. CPCB (2000): The Environment Protection Rules 1986 Standards for coal mines, Central
Pollution control Board, New Delhi, India. Web link - http://www.cpcb.nic.in/Industry-SpecificStandards/Effluent/494-1.pdf accessed on 24th July 2015.

3. Sangita (2010): Studies on environmental impact of acid mine drainage generation and its
treatment : an appraisal, Indian Journal of Environmental Protection, Vol.30, No.11, Varanasi,
Uttar Pradesh, India. Web Link - http://cimfr.csircentral.net/34/1/S31.pdfaccessed on 22d July
2015

4.

MPCB (2015): Circular related to cancellation of RRZ policy of 2009, Maharashtra Pollution
Control Board, Mumbai, Maharashtra.
5. Maharashtra Government (2009): River Regulation Zoning Policy of 2009, Environment
Department, Government of Maharashtra, Mumbai, India. Web Link http://www.mpcb.gov.in/consentmgt/pdf/GR_RiversWQ2009.pdf accessed on 23rd July 2015.

6. Maharashtra Government (2015): Minutes of state assembly held on 27th March 2015,
Maharashtra State Assembly, Government of Maharashtra, India. Web Link http://mls.org.in/OrderOfDayC_budget15.aspx accessed on 1st April 2015.
7. TOI (2015): 7 WCL mines to benefit from scrapping of RRZ policy, Times of India 29th March
2015, Mumbai, India. Web link - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/nagpur/7-WCL-mines-

to-benefit-from-scrapping-of-RRZ-policy/articleshow/46729681.cms accessed on 17th April


2015.
8. MPCB (2015): Minutes of 1st Consent Appraisal Committee meeting of 2015-2016 held on
15.04.2015, Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board, Mumbai, India. Web Link http://mpcb.gov.in/consentappraisal/pdf/1st_CAC_1542015.pdf accessed on 17th April 2015.

9. NGT (2014): Shri Vinesh Madanaya Kalwal Vs State of Maharashtra and others, Judgment ,
National Green Tribunal (Western Zone) Bench Pune, India. Web Link http://www.greentribunal.gov.in/Writereaddata/Downloads/30_2013(App)(WZ)_16May2014_final
_order.pdf accessed on 17th March 2015.

10. MPCB (2015): Joint Visit Report 1 December 2014, Maharashtra state Pollution Control Board,
regional office Chandrapur, Maharashtra, India.