Hindalco alumina plant closed, show cause to two IITs

Ranchi: The Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board has cancelled the Consent to Operate (CTO) of Hindalco following the accident at the company’s plant around 25 km from here, a Board official said on Thursday.

The State Pollution Control Board has also issued notices in connection with the accident on Tuesday to two IITs – Mumbai and Roorkee – which had approved the plant design.

“We have cancelled the CTO of Hindalco after the incident. We have also issued notice to IIT Mumbai and IIT Roorkee who had given approval of the design of the red mud wall.

“We are also issuing notice to Hindalco for not following the environment measures”, State Pollution Control Board Member Secretary Rajeev Lochan Bakshi told IANS.

“We are constituting a four-member technical committee to study the design approved by IIT Mumbai and Roorkee, and whether the design was followed by the Hindalco. The four-member committee will include representatives of Mecon, ACMPDI, District Forest Officer (DFO) Ranchi and a Regional Officer of the Forest Department.

Ranchi Commissioner Shubra Verma has also started an enquiry into the incident that has caused the death of one person.

The district administration has sought details of mobile phones active in the area when the incident took place to ascertain the number of people trapped by the debris.

The removal of debris could only be started on Thursday morning as the approach road could not be constructed by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team.

Protesting villagers stopped the NDRF team on Wednesday from constructing a path to the accident area. The villagers say that their cultivable land will become infertile if the debris is piled on it and are seeking compensation for damages.

The NDRF team launched the rescue operation on Wednesday amidst heavy security. The debris has spread over the area, including on railway tracks causing a threat to the environment.

Hindalco, however, has said that only four people were injured, and no there has been damage done to the environment.

Many people were feared trapped and swept away in the debris as the caustic pond suddenly broke up following a land cave-in at Muri, situated around 25 km from Ranchi.

According to local residents, the incident has taken place at the red mud store point which is left after manufacturing aluminium from bauxite.

According to an eyewitness, the heap of mud caved in, causing the debris to spread rapidly, following which many workers were trapped.

Hindalco was sealed in 2017 on the order of the pollution control board for not following the environment and safety rules. The plant was restarted last year.

Opposition parties have alleged that the relief work started late.