India | Toxic metals contaminate villages near coal facilities in Chhattisgarh

The air, water, soil, and sediment in and around several villages in the Raigarh district in Chhattisgarh state are severely contaminated with various toxic heavy metals, according to a new report by Healthy Energy Initiative’s partner in India, Community Environmental Monitoring, along with a local community group.

The environmental sampling and testing was undertaken to investigate complaints of severe pollution and health problems from the coal mines, thermal power plants, and coal ash ponds by the residents of the region.

These findings strengthen the evidence that coal-fired power generation is not only a leading driver of climate change, but also contaminates nearby communities.


Below is a snapshot of chemicals found and their health effects:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Humans and animals in the area are at risk of amplified harm because of the exposure to multiple toxicants and carcinogens all at once. Many of these toxic chemicals adversely affect the same organ (e.g. lungs, kidneys) or have similar impacts (cancer, skin damage, damage to reproductive system). It is clear that there is an increased cumulative threat when the exposure is to many toxic chemicals at the same time.
  5. Many chemicals found are known to bio accumulate and move up the food chain.

Based on these findings and observations, local communities demand that the Chhattisgarh Environment Conservation Board and the Chhattisgarh Government should immediately:

1. Initiate continuous and long-term monitoring of emissions in the region and publish the results periodically and issue advisories. This should include the comprehensive monitoring of air, soil waterbodies, drinking water and fish in the region.

2. Use the pollution data to apprehend polluters and take corrective remediation action to bring the levels of dust and heavy metals in in residential areas to below detection limits.

3. Commission a Cumulative Environmental and Health Impact Assessment study of the densely industrialized areas of Tamnar block.

4. Commission a study to assess the carrying capacity of the densely industrialized areas of Tamnar block for any further industrialization.

5. Enforce a moratorium on any expansion of coal mines and coal-fired thermal power plants and any other polluting industries in the region pending the findings of the study.

6. Provide for long-term health monitoring by initiating health studies among the residents of villages and workers in and around Tamnar, Chhattisgarh.

7. Set up specialized health care infrastructure operated by the Government health department at polluters’ cost to cater to pollution-impacted Tamnar residents and factory workers.

8. Set up an oversight committee comprising of government officials from various departments (including the pollution control board, health and local administration) and local residents from various villages to oversee the time-bound execution and implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations

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