Vadodara team to probe Koradi pollution, 5 MPCB officials shifted

Manka Behl, Times News Network, May 19 2017

Link to news article

A special team from the west zone office of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), located at Vadodara, will inspect the Koradi Thermal Power Station (KTPS) for compliance of environmental norms. Simultaneously, in a sudden development, five high-ranking officers of the Nagpur office of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), which was under lens for alleged fudging of air quality monitoring data, have been transferred.

On April 15, TOI had reported about the unrealistically low emissions of sulphur dioxide and particulate matter recorded from the stack (chimney) of KTPS’s three units, which were dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on April 14. A week later, Mahagenco — the company which runs the plant — sent a clarification along with its own data, revealing that SO2 levels were five times over the permissible limit set by the ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC).

Following TOI’s report, activist Ankita Shah had lodged a complaint with Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that sought action from the MoEFCC. However, when the ball landed up in MPCB’s court again and it started re-monitoring the air quality, Shah again knocked the doors of PMO demanding an independent probe by a neutral agency.

Even environment expert Debi Goenka had said that the inquiry should not be conducted by the MPCB itself as it is suspected to have a role in fudging the data.

On Thursday, Shah received an e-mail from the PMO portal. The letter, dated May 16, attached with it had CPCB’s divisional head NK Gupta directing the board’s regional director (west) to depute a team for “inspecting KTPS for monitoring of compliance”.

“Since the matter is related to the plant whose one of the units was dedicated to the nation by the Prime Minister, the team should submit a report within 15 days,” the letter stated.

Though the PMO had sought an action taken report within 15 days after the first complaint, Shah has not received any conclusive report.

Two days ago, five MPCB officers including regional officer (acting) Nagesh Lohalkar, sub-regional officer (SRO) Hema Deshpande and three field officers got transferred out of Nagpur. It is not known whether the transfers were related to the KTPS case and MPCB senior officials maintained that “they were routine”. But sources hinted that there was a link between the sudden transfers and KTPS matter.

Soon after the transfers were affected, Shah, the complainant, received the communication from the PMO on Thursday.

Out of the transferred officers, Deshpande, Lohalkar and field officer Gajanan Khadkikar were monitoring and supervising the air quality of KTPS emissions.

Deshpande has been holding a post in the Nagpur region for about 12 years. “As per rules, an officer is posted out of a region every five years. But she managed to stall her transfer all the time,” said sources.
Deshpande has been transferred to Chandrapur, Lohalkar to Amravati and Khadkikar to Mumbai. Apart from this, field officers Raviraj Patil and Atul Satphale have been transferred to Aurangabad and Chandrapur, respectively.
Newly posted regional officer Rahul Wankhede, who was earlier in Amravati, said that the re-monitoring data of air quality emissions have been sent for laboratory analysis and the results will be available soon.


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