Against Ash Pond Pollution in Koderma

Protests against construction of the Banjhodih Thermal Power Plant’s Ash Pond are on by the people of the 32 affected villages in Koderma district. The people’s demand is that the ash pond should either be constructed at a distance of 600m from the village to protect the crops and people from dust and other pollution or the village itself should be shifted to a distance of 600m with 100% compensation. But the DVC has rejected this demand and started the construction. The people from the affected 32 villages have started protests immediately.

The digging the ash pond is taking place on more than 1800 acres of land covering 32 villages of which 90% is cultivable. This will displace a minimum of 2000 farmers and more than 3000 landless families settled on gairmajrua government land. A total of over 7000 families are in imminent danger of displacement of which the DVC has a list of only 1579 displaced families till now. The history of Jharkhand testifies that once displaced, the person or family not only never gets the land back but is also never resettled.

More than 400 displaced people from Koriyama, the village most affected, started the protests with a 3 day dharna on 11 February 2017 which got widespread people’s support in spite heavy deployment of police and attempts by the administration to obstruct the protests. Former MLA from CPI(ML) Vinod Singh and present MLA Rajkumar Yadav participated in and addressed the dharna. CPI(ML) took out a padyatra on 18 February through Koriyama, Taimay Dharedih, Bigaha, Bisodih, Khedobadh, Singardih, and Dumardiha with an 11-point demand charter which includes: the ash pond to be constructed at a distance of 600m from villages; false cases slapped on maintenance workers in the power plant should be taken back; as per the Relief and Rehabilitation policy, farmers should be paid pension with arrears from 2008; DVC should without delay pay minimum wages with an increase of 42%. The padyatra culminated in a meeting at the Highway near the power plant. On 21 February hundreds of villagers gheraoing the Banjhodih power plant held a meeting near Gate No. 1 addressed by comrades Rajkumar Yadav and Vinod Singh.

When, in spite of the dharna protests the DVC did not stop the ash pond construction work, the villagers did a hunger strike in front of the Koderma Deputy Commissioner from 28 February to 2 March to protest against the pollution as a result of the digging work. On 2 March an agreement was reached after the Deputy Commissioner’s intervention that the digging work would be stayed until an enquiry was held into the resultant pollution. Till date the digging work on the ash pond is on hold, but the villagers are determined to have the construction of the ash pond shifted from that place.