Air pollutant emissions from the proposed integrated steel plant near Paradip port in Jagatsinghpur, Odisha, will cause an estimated 94 deaths per year, as per a Health Impact and Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report released on January 25, 2022.
For years now, villagers in the district have been protesting the development projects proposed in their area by Indian steel company JSW Utkal Ltd. Alleging that the authorities are in cahoots with the company, the community earlier rejected the environmental clearance, as local Gram Sabhas has not been consulted.
However, CREA’s report titled Health Impacts Assessment of Integrated Steel Plant, JSW Utkal Steel Limited exposed how the report’s serious shortcomings not only falsify the actual environment impact but also serious health impact.
Health impact of JSW project
“Air pollution would also lead to a projected 180 emergency room visits due to asthma, 160 preterm births and 75,000 days of work absence per year,” wrote Sunil Dahiya and Lauri Myllyvirta in the report.
The proposed project site is 5-10 km away from an already severely polluted area of Paradeep – one of the most polluted geographies in India and classified as ‘severely polluted’ by the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI). The pollution received from there has already caused high air pollution levels at the site. This is mentioned in the original EIA report.
Yet, the EIA report claimed that the fine particles (PM10 levels) in the ambient air during project work will remain within the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) as prescribed by MoEFCC. The health assessment report said this is misleading because the prevailing PM10 levels are already higher than the prescribed standards.
Further, the emission load of the proposed plant will be about twice the fine particle emissions for the entire cluster at Paradeep and two-third sulfur dioxide (SO2). This means that the worsening air quality will result in severe health impact and extend the intensity and geographical reach of pre-existing CEPI area.
Citing this report, Lok Shakti Abhiyan President Prafulla Samantara wrote to the entire Environmental Action Committee (EAC) that the affected villages in Dhinkia Charidesh house over 22,000 people.
“[They] will be forced to bear the brunt of dangerous cumulative emissions of greenhouse gases along with scarcity of clean drinking water,” he said.
EIA shortcomings listed
Focusing on the EIA, the report said that the EIA makes a “skewed” comparison between the three-season average to daily PM10 levels. The daily PM10 standard is 100 μg/m3, whereas the annual standard is 60 μg/m3. Due to this significant difference in data points, the report said seasonal and cross-seasonal averages should be compared to annual rather than daily standards.
The EIA report also included 50 readings per station, collected across seasons to assess ambient air quality. According to the CPCB protocol, 50 or more days of monitoring in a year should be compared to the average annual concentration.
Similarly, the EIA does not account for incremental PM2.5 from the plant operation, the most harmful part of the particulate pollution. The health assessment report said data on such emissions is integral to Environment and Health Impact Assessments. Other important data points missed are accounting for mercury or any other heavy metal from the plant operation.
Dahiya and Myllyvirta also pointed out that the air pollution dispersion model in the EIA fails to account for secondary particulate formation PM2.5 formed from SO2 and nitrogen oxide emissions. This significantly underestimates the total pollution concentrations.
“These formed secondary PM2.5 make up a more significant component of the total PM2.5 emission load from any fossil fuel combustion facility. Accounting for secondary particulates make the predicted PM levels from the plant multiple times higher,” said the health report.
Additionally, Lime Kiln, Cement Plant and other combustion sources entirely omitted NOx emissions data without any explanation. Combustion of any fuel produces NOx emissions, which should be accounted for to ensure EIAs are comprehensive and nuanced.
Samantara and other activists appealed to officials to withdraw the project proposal in light of these findings. Rather than using an inadequate and fraudulent EIA, Samantara asked that fresh assessment be done instead.
“We demand an independent assessment based on understanding the comprehensive environment and health impacts of the proposed project on the surrounding areas including human settlements to be carried out before proceeding any further,” he said.
The full report may be read here:
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