Dear Nagpur, this is what you drink!

Kanhan River is one of my favorite river which is known for its sandy beds and glassy water. During winter and summer seasons the sandy beds of the  river come up as water recedes. During this period the flow of river finds its way through sand beds and develops unique patterns of river flow. This pattern is very regular and it also feeds river bed farming on the sandy beds of the river. However this character of the river gets adversely altered as it passes the Khaperkheda Thermal Power Station (KTPS). This coal based thermal power station is situated exactly on the right bank of the river. Its chimneys and cooling tower rise from the ground and touch the blue sky.

Downstream of the Khaperkheda thermal power station the drain which carries effluents – clearly untreated – from the plant enters directly into river Kanhan. The effluents are turbid and black in colour with load of suspended solids in it. There is layer of black oil on the effluents. As this effluent stream meets the river, it turns the flowing river water into turbid and black in colour. The suspended solids in effluents which are mainly fly ash and coal particles settle on the river bed and at the bottom, especially where the river flow slows down or becomes stagnant. The situation was same when I had visited the same place earlier on 19th Nov 2014. At present the quantity of effluents has been increased and the river bed has turned into black in colour.

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Left Image shows untreated effluents of KTPS meets river Kanhan in background there are chimneys of power plant. Right image shows untreated effluent of the plant meeting river kanhan and in background it is damaging riverbed farm.

There is a riverbed farm exactly downstream of the point where the effluent drain of KTPS meets the river Kanhan. This farm is directly dependent on the Kanhan river water which is polluted by the KTPS’s untreated effluents. Due to this, the hazardous material from effluents settles into the soil and sand of the farm. This is resulted into blackening of the crops and farm land.

Khaperkheda kanhan river drain  Khaperkheda 2

Left image shows Google earth image of KTPS with red line showing drain of effluent coming out from plant and meeting river kanhan indicated with red circle. At this point polluted black river water can be seen. Right image shows Google earth image of river kanhan which is showing black effluents in river after meeting of drain coming out from power plant.

Being tolerant Indian citizens we can easily tolerate if river water is polluted, river bed farming is destroyed and fishermen whose entire livelihoods, dependent on the fish in the river,are destroyed by pollution. However, what if same water is consumed by Nagpur residents as drinking water? Yes, that’s exactly what is happening here. The extremely polluted water of river Kanhan after confluence of the effluent drain from KTPS flows nearly one km downstream to the confluence point with river Pench. At this point there is small weir on river to secure the water source for the intake well of Nagpur drinking water supply[1]. This is the point where polluted water of Kanhan River also gets accumulated and which is lifted for drinking water supply to Nagpur city.

KH1  Nagpur MNC Intake well

Left image shows Google earth image of KTPS (in blue outline) ash pond (in yellow outline), Kanhan river and after confluence Pench river (in faint red colour). Right image shows Google earth image of Nagpur Municipal water supply intake well in downstream of confluence point of river kanhan to Pench.

I am sure that there will good water treatment facilities provided by the Nagpur Municipal Corporation to treat raw water lifted from Kanhan River. However I get worried as to whether the water treatment process will remove heavy metals from polluted water. It is more likely that the untreated effluent of KTPS is having heavy metal constituents as it carries load of fly ash which is produced by burning of coal. After burning of coal the concentration of heavy metals automatically increases as the volume of coal get converted to a small volume of fly ash. So the water which is consumed by considerable areas of the city comes from River Kanhan and the city people need to think about this.

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Left image shows drain with load of ash water coming out from ash pond of KTPS. Right image shows same drain meeting river kolar at confluence point with river Pench and Kanhan. 

According to the conclusion of the study titled ‘Physicochemical Study of Kanhan River Water Receiving Fly Ash Disposal Waste Water of Khaperkheda Thermal Power Station, India’ (Thorat and Charde 2013); “The side stream sites are highly polluted which then directly get mixed with the Kanhan River thus adding the load of pollution to the Kanhan River. Values of conductivity, total dissolved solids, turbidity, chemical oxygen demand, alkalinity, hardness, and chlorides were very high in side stream water than the desirable values for drinking water. Although main stream of Kanhan River showed these values within limits except few parameters exceed the desirable limit at confluence point. Concentration of these parameters were found comparatively more in downstream water than upstream water indicate the impact of ash bund side stream water on the quality of water of downstream of river. Even though most of the metals were found within the limits, metals like iron and manganese were found in high concentration. So some preventive steps should be taken in order to stop the addition of side stream water i.e. disposal waste water from thermal power plant to the fresh water bodies. Water near the confluence point is not suitable for drinking purposes although this water can be used for other auxiliary purposes such as irrigation, washing, etc.”

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Left image showing Google earth image of ash water drain of KTPS meets river Kolar at red circle and water intake well of Kamathi Cantonment board at yellow circle. Right image showing settling of ash in bed of river Kolar at the point where ash drain meets river.

 I want to remind all of us that the intake well of Nagpur drinking water supply scheme is at confluence point of River Kanhan and Pench. This confluence point receives polluted water of River Kanhan.

According to the provisions of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981,industrial units need to take consent to operate from state pollution control board. The consent to operate is given with certain conditions.The Consent Appraisal Committee (CAC) of a state pollution control board is he authority that grants, forbids or refuses the consent to operate if any concerned industrial unit is not following conditions given under the Water and Air acts.

The Consent Appraisal Committee of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board in its 14th Meeting held on 2nd Feb 2016 decided that the bank guarantee[2] of KTPS(expansion) and KTPS (unit I to IV)should be forfeited. This decision was taken due to non-compliance by the thermal power station to the consent conditions. The committee also noted that the Joint Visit Sampling[3] (JVS) analysis reports of air and water are exceeding the limits. As a result of this, the Managing Director of the Maharashtra Power Generation Corporation has been asked to appear in person for hearing before the Chairman of the Consent Appraisal Committee. With this, the CAC granted consent to operate to the thermal power station till 31st Dec 2016 by freshly extending all the bank guarantees. In the end MPCB issued consent to operate to the power station on 25th Feb 2016.

My latest visit to the plant site and local area was on 23rd March 2016. Nearly a month after grant of consent to operate to KTPS, the water pollution of river Kanhan by ash and untreated effluent was rampant. The situation had been the same when I had visited the same sites on 19th Nov 2014.

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Left image showing untreated effluent coming out from KTPS meeting river Kanhan on 19th Nov 2014. Right Image showing polluted river bed at the point of meeting of effluents of KTPS on 19th Nov 2014

In conclusion, KTPS is adversely and knowingly polluting waters of Kanhan River which is source of drinking water of  Nagpur city, Kamathi Cantonment Board and nearby villages on either banks of the river. The actions taken by the state pollution control board are only limited to forfeiting bank guarantee of the plant. However the main issues of pollution remains unaddressed, and it is forcing people of Nagpur and surrounding areas to risk their lives by drinking such polluted water.Koradi Thermal Power Station which is close to Nagpur city is going to use its treated sewage water for cooling purposes and other plant operations in coming days. Ironically at present Nagpur people are drinking effluents of KTPS through River Kanhan.

Visit and photographs by Jinda Sandbhor


Thorat and Charde (2013): Physicochemical Study of Kanhan River Water Receiving Fly Ash Disposal Waste Water of Khaperkheda Thermal Power Station, India. International Research Journal of Environment Sciences Vol. 2(9), 10-15. Web Link:  accessed on 1st April 2016.

MPCB (2016): Renewal of Consent to Operate of Khaperkheda Thermal Power Station. Maharashtra state pollution control board, Government of Maharashtra. Web Link: accessed on 2nd April 2016.

MPCB (2016): Minutes of 14th Consent Appraisal Committee Meeting of 2015-2016 held on 02.02.2016 Maharashtra state pollution control board, Government of Maharashtra. Web Link: accessed on 2nd April 2016


[1]Nagpur Municipal Corporation source its drinking water from Kahan river which supplies drinking water to north, east, south and up to certain extent to central part of the city. There is also supply of drinking water from right bank canal of Pench project through Phase I, II, and III which collects water at Mahadula pumping station and supplies it to the city.

[2] MPCB asks industries to submit bank guarantees on the basisof capital investment, income and type of pollution that can be happen from respective Industrial units. This guarantee is collected during the time of delivery of consent to operate. If the industrial unit during the period of consent exceeds limits of pollution or violates conditions and pollutes the environment, then MPCB take action and the industry will forfeit the bank guarantee.

[3]Joint visit sampling is done jointly by officials from MPCB and respective plant authorities to inspect the issues of pollution under consent to operate conditions.

Coal Mines in Maharashtra polluting River Water, Contaminating Drinking Water Sources

Crossing the bridge on river Wardha in November 2014 on the way to Wani from Ghuggus village in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, I saw an unusual waterfall on the left side of the bridge. No source of water like stream or rivulet cannot be seen. Looking at the waterfall, it struck me that the waterfall is having muddy water months after end of monsoon. As I got closer to the waterfall the stark reality unfolded. The colour of waterfall is almost red and there is layer of oil, grease settled on river water. An entire stretch of the river is coloured red. According to local activists the source of the water in the waterfall is the mine discharge of Ghuggus Opencast Coal (GOC) mine of Western Coalfileds Ltd (WCL). This coal mine is situated exactly on the left bank of river Wardha.


Left image shows Mine discharge water of Ghuggus Open Cast (GOC) coal mine falling in River Wardha. Right image shows oil and grease layer on river water where mine discharge of GOC meets Wardha. Photographs taken on 16th Nov 2014 by Author.

Not just this, but the entire stretch of Wardha River from Majri to Rajura village in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra is lined on the sides by overburden dumps of coal mines on both the banks. Overburden is the topsoil and rock which is above the coal deposits and is removed during surface mining to reach the coal. During my visit to this area I saw overburden dumps are on/near the banks of river Wardha. There is absence of retention walls, catch drain and green cover[1] on overburden dumps which are near and almost on the banks of river Wardha. Silt and water coming out from these dumps is directly entering into the river. The same situation was seen during visit to River Iraie and Amala nala which are major tributaries on left bank of river. Red coloured mine discharge water from Navin Kunada, Juna Kunada Naigaon, Telwasa, Dhorwasa and Ghuggus open cast coal mines is directly/indirectly entering into Wardha River and polluting it. Field reports of the Maharashtra Pollution control Board[2] show that mine discharge water coming out from Telwasa, Dhorwasa, Navin Kunanda and Juna Kunada open cast coal mine is acidic in nature showing pH value below 5[3]. This indicates its highly acidic nature. Without proper handling and treatment when this acidic mine discharge water comes in contact with natural environment it increases solubility of metals from their composite forms[4]. As a result the concentration of heavy metals in mine drainage is likely to be more and due to direct discharge of untreated acidic mine discharge water threat of water contamination in Wardha River is bound to increase. The area where acidic mine water is discharged in the river is upstream, of source of drinking water for towns like Bhadravati, Ghuggus and Ballarpur. There are also numerous villages on the banks of the river dependent on drinking and sanitation water supply from this river. The acidic mine discharge water is threatening health of people living in surrounding areas who are dependent on river for their drinking water.

DSC08956Naigaon Mine drainage in river Wardha

Mine Discharge water of Naigaon Open Cast coal mine[5] meets directly to river Wardha (left photo). Image on right is Google earth image of same point. Photographs taken on 16th Nov 2014 by author.


Left photo shows mine discharge water coming out from Telwasa open cast coal mine meeting river Wardha and right photo is of mine discharge water discharged from Majri Open cast mine without sedimentation process in local drain which meets Kondha nala and ultimately river Wardha. Photographs taken on 17th Nov 2014 by Author.

On 3rd Feb 2015 the Maharashtra state government shocked people in the Vidharbha mines area and environmental activists by announcing the scrapping of its River Regulation Zoning (RRZ) policy. This policy was made in the year 2000 and was amended in year 2009. The main aim of this policy was to regulate siting of industries from High Flood Lines (HFL) of river according to their pollution category[6]. As a result of this policy there were 7 coal mines[7] around river Wardha which were not getting consent to operate from the Consent Appraisal Committee (CAC) of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). These coal mines were violating the norms of this policy as their locations were near or on the bank of river Wardha. After scrapping RRZ policy for now there is absence of any siting criteria for setting up any industrial units around rivers of Maharashtra. This decision of Maharashtra state government has made it more critical to tackle issue of water pollution in river Wardha.

Mungoli Overburden dump near river wardha 2013Mungoli Overburden dump in river wardha 2014

Google earth Images of year 2013 and 2014 shows that the overburden dump of Mungoli Open cast coal mine which was on the bank of river Wardha during year 2013 (left image) entered into Riverbed during year 2014 (right image). This has been verified during site visit by Manthan team.

The Consent Appraisal Committee of MPCB is responsible for providing consent to operate and consent to establish under WaterAct, 1974 and Air Act 1981 of India. In recent period it can be seen that this CAC is being more active in sidelining environment. During visit of Manthan team to Ghuggus and Naigaon coal mine area on 16th Nov 2014 it becomes evident that the mine discharge water from both the mines is polluting river Wardha. In relation to this on 19th Nov 2014 local and national print media reported the issue of water pollution due to mine discharge water in river Wardha from Ghuggus Open Cast coal mine (GOC) and Naigaon Opencast Coal (NOC) mine. Local activist filed related complaint to regional office of MPCB Chandrapur on 20th Nov 2014. In reply to this sub regional officer of MPCB Chandrapur visited the area on 1st Dec 2014 and reported that :


Further it says that GOC coal mine is not following the conditions and further action should be started by higher authorities. During visit to the area by Manthan, as shown in images earlier the mine discharge water was red in colour and there was oil and grease layer on water. As this report says that water is discharged outside from ETP, Manthan team suspects that the oil and grease layer on discharged water is due to non-functioning of ETP of GOC coal mine. As a result regional officer of MPCB wrote to CAC on 5th December 2014 asking it to take action against the mine. However till present there is absence of any action. Subsequently the CAC have approved consent to operate to GOC.


Left image intake well of drinking water supply to Mungoli coal mine colony which is downstream of mine discharge of Naigaon and Ghuggus opencast coal mines in river Wardha. Right image, of intake well of Bhadravati Town in river Wardha. Mine discharge of Majri, Navin Kundada and Juna Kunada coal mines meets river Wardha upstream of this intake well.

On 27th March 2015 Smt Shobhatai Fadanavis, Member of Legislative Council brought an attention motion in the Maharashtra state assembly related to pollution issues of Chandrapur district of Vidharbha region. The motion said that there is an issue of water, air and land pollution due to industrial units and coal mines. Due to bad air quality people living in surrounding areas are suffering from respiratory illnesses. Times of India reported on 28th March 2015 that, in response to Smt Shobhatai Fadanavis’s motion the environment minister of the state had announced that four polluting industrial units namely Bilt Graphics Paper Products Ltd, Awantha Power and Infrastructure Ltd, Karnataka Emta Coal Mine and Wardha Power Company Ltd will be closed due to issues of pollution. At the same time he announced that the bank guarantee of 24 industries will be forfeited due to ongoing pollution. According to the local activist and reporters all the four projects are working and still polluting the environment without any state control.

The state Environment Department and State Pollution Control board have failed to implement effective measures to control pollution and restore environment in and around critically polluted area of Chandrapur district. From political executive side there is lack of will to take strong action. As stated above the issue of pollution is raised and debated on different platforms. However there is absence of any action oriented results. The MPCB and CAC have active roles in controlling pollution, but these are diluted due to lack of resources and state support. Unfortunately, ground situation of pollution continues as it is, and people around river Wardha are forced to drink river water which is mixed with acid mine drain and overburden silt.

Visit by Jinda Sandbhor



  1. MPCB (2013): Joint Visit Report 9th December 2013, Maharashtra state Pollution Control Board, regional office Chandrapur, Maharashtra, India.
  2. CPCB (2000): The Environment Protection Rules 1986 – Standards for coal mines, Central Pollution control Board, New Delhi, India. Web link – accessed on 24th July 2015.
  3. Sangita (2010): Studies on environmental impact of acid mine drainage generation and its treatment : an appraisal, Indian Journal of Environmental Protection, Vol.30, No.11, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. Web Link – on 22d July 2015
  4. MPCB (2015): Circular related to cancellation of RRZ policy of 2009, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, Mumbai, Maharashtra.
  5. Maharashtra Government (2009): River Regulation Zoning Policy of 2009, Environment Department, Government of Maharashtra, Mumbai, India. Web Link – accessed on 23rd July 2015.
  6. Maharashtra Government (2015): Minutes of state assembly held on 27th March 2015, Maharashtra State Assembly, Government of Maharashtra, India. Web Link – accessed on 1st April 2015.
  7. TOI (2015): 7 WCL mines to benefit from scrapping of RRZ policy, Times of India 29th March 2015, Mumbai, India. Web link – accessed on 17th April 2015.
  8. MPCB (2015): Minutes of 1st Consent Appraisal Committee meeting of 2015-2016 held on 15.04.2015, Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board, Mumbai, India. Web Link – accessed on 17th April 2015.
  9. NGT (2014): Shri Vinesh Madanaya Kalwal Vs State of Maharashtra and others, Judgment , National Green Tribunal (Western Zone) Bench Pune, India. Web Link – accessed on 17th March 2015.
  10. MPCB (2015): Joint Visit Report 1 December 2014, Maharashtra state Pollution Control Board, regional office Chandrapur, Maharashtra, India.


[1]According to environment clearance of coal mines, all overburden dumps should have retention wall with weep holes, catch drains and should be stabilized by green cover. The mining authority should submit status of such compliance in every six months of mining operations to the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change.

[2] Manthan had visited coal mines area around river Wardha on 13th Nov 2013. During this visit issue of water pollution due to mine discharge had came in focus. As a result of this local reporters reported related news in news paper on 8th December 2013. As a result of this regional officer of MPCB visited the area on 9th December 2013 and made a joint visit report, which clearly indicate violations of consent to operate conditions and validate all issues raised by Manthan’s field visit findings.

[3]According the joint visit report of MPCB regional office to WCL Majri area on 9th December 2013 there is discharge of mine water having pH2 to 3 into River Wardha directly/through Kondha nala from Dhorwasa, Telwasa, Navin Kunada and Juna Kunada Open cast coal mines. According to Central Pollution Control Board’s standards for coal mines under Environment Protection Rules, 1986, the pH of mine water discharge into natural environment should be between 5.5 to 9.0.

[4]According to a research report published by Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research India titled Studies on environmental impact of acid mine drainage generation and its treatment: An appraisal, 2010 (page no. 956): “Low pH of mine drainage results in solubility of heavy metals in water and its high concentration causes toxicological effects on aquatic ecosystems. Acute exposure of high concentration of metals can kill organisms directly while long term exposure to lower can cause mortality or other effects, such as stunned growth, lower reproduction rates deformities and lesions (Lewis and Clark 1996)”

[5] Mine discharge water of Naigaon Open Cast coal is pumped through deep bore wells situated on the bank of the coal mine. According to a site official these bore wells are made to pump out water from abandoned underground coal mine,which in turn drain the water accumulated in Naigaon and Ghuggus Open Cast coal mines.

[6] According to RRZ policy 2009, for A-II class rivers, half kilometre distance from High Flood Line (HFL) should be no development zone, between the half kilometre to 1 kilometre zone, green category industries will be allowed, in the 1 to 2 kilometre zone orange category industries will be allowed and red category industries will be allowed beyond 2 kilometres on either side of river. Coal mines comes under red category industry. As per MPCB website entire stretch of Wardha River from boundary of Madhya Pradesh to confluence with Wainganga River comes under A-II class of rivers.

[7]According to the Minutes of 12th Meeting of Consent Appraisal Committee of MPCB, meeting held on 23rd April 2013, the consent to establish for Naigaon Opencast Mine, Bellora-Naigaon Deep Open Cast Expansion Project was rejected due to violation of RRZ policy. According to news article published in Times of India on 29th March 2015, Consent Appraisal Committee (CAC) of MPCB has rejected consent to operate/establish of Mungoli, Dhorwasa, Telwasa, Ukni, Telwasa Yekona-I and Yekona-II open cast coal mine of Western Coalfields Ltd (WCL)due to non-compliance with RRZ policy. The news article further says that these coal mines will be benefited from scrapping of RRZ policy by getting consent to operate/establish.