Pollution Crisis in Chhattisgarh, India

The Times of India quotes ELAW Staff Scientist Dr. Mark Chernaik speaking out about pollution in Chhattisgarh, a heavily forested state in central India known for its temples and waterfalls. It is also home to coal mines and coal-fired power plants that have caused residents to suffer for years from highly polluted air, soil, and water.
The Times of India reports on ELAW’s help revealing “a severe pollution crisis in the region with levels of several carcinogenic toxic metals in air, water, and soil not meeting standards.”
ELAW partner Shweta Narayan with Community Environmental Monitors reached out to ELAW Staff Scientist Dr. Mark Chernaik for help interpreting results of air, water, and soil samples collected by trained community members in Raigarh District.
Shweta says villagers complained of chronic joint pain, bone deformities, skin allergies, respiratory illnesses such as tuberculosis, and more.
Shweta sent the samples to Oregon labs and Dr. Chernaik helped interpret the findings which are published in a new report, “Poisoned.”

The findings include:

  •     Nine out of 12 soil samples from the villages were heavily contaminated by fly ash, with cadmium levels in soil in Regaon village 18 times the safe standard and chromium levels in Kunjemera village more than three times the safe standard.
  •     Water and air samples in Kosampali, Dongamahua, Kodkel, Kunjemera, and Regaon were contaminated with high levels of cadmium, chromium, manganese, and selenium. Regaon village exceeded the arsenic standard by 1.7 times and cadmium levels by 4.4 times.

“Cadmium is an insidious toxin that stays in the body for several decades and is a primary cause of kidney disease,” says Dr. Chernaiik. “Protecting children against exposure to cadmium should be an urgent priority.”
Villagers are now demanding that the Chhattisgarh government initiate immediate continuous monitoring of emissions and health data, apprehend the polluters, and clean up the area.
Burning coal in the U.S. and the European Union may cause more than 10,000 premature deaths every year. In India, the numbers may exceed 100,000.

ELAW is pleased with its work in India to protect communities from the severe health impacts of mining and burning coal.
For more information, see:
Soil, water and air contaminated with heavy metals in these Chhattisgarh villages (The Times of India, August 7, 2017)

POISONED: Report on the Environmental Sampling around the Coal Mines, Thermal Power Plants and Ash Ponds in Tamnar & Gharghoda Blocks of Raigarh, Chhattisgarh (August 2017)

For more information about ELAW’s work keeping coal in the ground, please contact:
Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

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