Lakhanpur: The high market value of cenosphere has resulted in a mad rush among people for its theft from the ash pond of Ib Thermal Power Project at Banharpali near here in Jharsuguda district, a report said.
The Ib Thermal Power Project is a coal-based thermal power plant at Banharpali. The power plant is operated by the state owned Orissa Power Generation Corporation (OPGC) with the help of the coal sourced from Ib Valley Coalfield in the area.
A cenosphere is a lightweight, inert, hollow sphere made largely of silica and alumina and filled with air or inert gas, typically produced as a coal combustion byproduct at thermal power plants.
The mad rush has given rise to serious confrontations in the area. Observers claimed that if not resolved at earliest then the situation might snowball into a major law and order problem. They demanded the OPGC authorities and the district administration to intervene and resolve the impasse.
OPGC is producing 1780 megawatt of power from the plant by using lakhs of tonnes of coal from its four units which have now became operational. As a result, lakhs of tonnes of ash are produced daily due to heavy coal combustion in the plant.
The OPGC has constructed several ash ponds at Rengali and Tilia to store the ash. The company has declared the areas as prohibitory zones to prevent the entry of locals. Moreover, security personnel also keep round the clock vigil in the areas to prevent any unauthorised entry.
However, despite the all measures hundreds of people from the adjoining villages daily sneak into the ash pond to collect cenosphere. The product is smuggled due to its high market value.
This has given rise to intense competition among the villagers in collecting the coal waste which they sell to traders for Rs 25-30 per kg.
Things have come to such a pass that the villagers have even pitched tents near the ash ponds to steal the cenosphere without abiding by coronavirus safety guidelines. They are also engaging children in the work as schools are closed due to the lockdown. The local traders after collecting the coal waste smuggle them outside the district in trucks.
Recently, the OPGC authorities tried to float a tender for collection of the coal waste but later cancelled it for unknown reasons.
Senior officer of OPGC Pradip Kumar Patra said steps will be taken after having a discussion with the district administration.