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Udupi power plant sickened villagers: NGT panel

The thermal plant in Udupi, operational since 2010 was acquired by the Adani Group in 2015
Last Updated : 08 March 2021, 09:12 IST
Last Updated : 08 March 2021, 09:12 IST
Last Updated : 08 March 2021, 09:12 IST
Last Updated : 08 March 2021, 09:12 IST

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The pollution caused by the Udupi Power Corporation Limited (UPCL) thermal plant has been tied to spiralling cases of diseases in areas surrounding the plant, said a report by an expert committee constituted by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

In some villages, the average annual prevalence of asthma, respiratory infections, and cancer increased by 17%, 171% and 293%, respectively between 2012 and 2020.

The thermal plant in Udupi, operational since 2010 and acquired by the Adani Group in 2015, was taken to the NGT by Janajagriti Samithi and others. The tribunal, in its 2019 order, noted that the blatant irregularities in the inception and operation of the plant call for its closure, but set up a committee to come up with mitigation measures.

After several changes in its composition, the joint committee submitted its report to the tribunal recently. The committee divided the surrounding villages into three regions: Those located in a radius of 10 km, 11 km-15 km and 16 km-20 km from the thermal plant in Yellur.

In the glaring absence of data on ecology, environment, loss of fish, crop or cattle deaths, the committee relied on data from the health department to assess the prevalence of health issues between 2012 and 2020.

The data showed that 15 villages in the 10-km radius of the plant experienced an increase in the annual prevalence of asthma, acute respiratory infection (ARI) and cancer by 17%, 171% and 293%, respectively.

In the 10 villages located between 11 km and 15 km of the plant, the average annual prevalence of ARI increased by 70% and cancer by 69%. The diseases of asthma and bronchitis were found to be negative during the study period.

Eight villages situated in the 16-20 km radius showed a 10% and 17% increase in the prevalence of ARI and cancer, while the growth rate of asthma and bronchitis was found negative.

The villages located within 10 km also bore the brunt of waterborne renal diseases, which increased by 55% in the eight-year period, the study noted.

The committee comprising R Srikanth from National Institute of Advanced Studies, Krishna Raj of Institute for Social and Economic Change and G Thirumurthy from the Central Pollution Control Board recommended a set of measures, including a detailed study on the plant's impact on ecology, environment, fisheries and agriculture.

Rs 70-crore damage to health

The expert committee pegged the cost of illness caused by UPCL from October 2010 to March 2020 at Rs 70.04 crore.

The NGT has invoked 'polluter pays' principle under Section 20 of the NGT Act, and the committee adopted a calculation method to arrive at a 'conservative' estimate. The cost is estimated based on information from government health centres in the area and does not include the cost of treatment incurred at private centres and hospitals.

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Published 07 March 2021, 19:21 IST

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