School Students in Sundergarh Protest Against Pollution From Coal Trucks

School students from Odisha’s Sundargarh district have joined their parents to protest against increasing pollution in the area. They are claiming that pollution has been caused by the transportation of coal by state-owned Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL) in the district, which is severely affecting their lives.

The protest is going on under the banner of Janashakti Bikash Parishad. Students have been sitting on dharna on the street of Ratanpur village in Hemgir block of Sundargarh district for about a week. The protest is against the pollution caused by the trucks carrying coal from MCL’s Kulda Open Cast Mine to Chhattisgarh.

Earlier, the union forest and environment ministry had allowed MCL to expand the capacity of the mines from 14 million tonnes per annum to 16.8 million tonnes per annum. This permission was subject to the company planting 1,00,000 trees with broad leaves in villages and 50,000 trees along the transportation route within two years to prevent increasing air pollution.

“We can no longer take the coal dust pollution. Every day hundreds of trucks leave a huge trail of dust while passing by our homes. How long should we face the pollution by trucks carrying coal,” said Anjana Pradhan, one of the children sitting on dharna.

Over 5,000 tribals of Sundargarh had started a road blockade at the Taparia area to stop the trucks carrying coal from Sundargarh to Chhattisgarh. The blockade was temporarily relieved when the Odisha Human Rights Commission on February 10 ordered a ban on the movement of trucks on the village roads for up to six weeks.

Information provided by Sundargarh sub-collector Abhimanyu Behera estimates the cost of the proposed corridor for the trucks to be ₹146 crores. “The construction of the corridor would soon start. But till the new road is made the villagers should not try to block the trucks. We have ordered MCL to transport the coal by covering with tarpaulins,” he said.

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