Growth and development in the form of industrialisation, urbanisation, power production and coal mining may have brought Chandrapur into the list of developing cities, but like other evolving cities, this growth has come at a huge cost. Not only has Chandrapur become the most polluted city in the Indian state of Maharashtra and fourth most polluted in the country, but the development has taken away for mining a very large area of fertile agricultural land and forest area.
A study titled ‘Impact assessment studies of Irai watershed in Chandrapur district using geo-informatics approach’ has compared changes in the built up area, agricultural land, forest cover, mining and other activities from 1975 onwards in the watershed belt. The study was undertaken by Maharashtra Remote Sensing and Application Centre ( MRSAC) resource scientist Sanjay Patil as part of his doctoral research programme using remote sensing satellite images.
The research indicates that development activities have disturbed the water cycle, drastically bringing down the groundwater table and also disturbed the ecology and environment of the entire watershed area of Irai river spread over 1,35,130ha. The built up area has expanded by about 700ha, from a built-up area of 2,875ha in 1975 to over 3,600ha as of today.
Besides, exploitation of all available natural resources in the watershed in a haphazard and non-sustainable manner for development has degraded the land and forest cover. Industrialisation, coal mining and Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station (CSTPS) are the biggest culprits. The ash pond area of CSTPS has been growing at an alarming rate since 1989, and its area has jumped from just 375.29ha in 1989 to a whooping over 1,886ha presently. The percolation of hazardous elements from these ash ponds has also polluted the Irai river water as well as the groundwater in surrounding areas.
Out of the five major reservoirs, Irai, Chargaon, Chandai, Tadoba Lake and Ramala (inside the city), the Chandai and Ramala have been affected. While siltation has reduced the storage capacity of Chandai reservoir drastically, flow of sewage and other wastes into the Ramala tank has polluted the water and affected aquatic life.
Meanwhile, mining of coal from Durgapur, Padmapur, Hindustan Lalpeth, Mana and Bhatadi mines has taken away 2,140ha of land since 1975. The use of agricultural land for mining has expanded from 255ha from 1975-1989 to 1,112ha. Similarly, mining has engulfed protected, reserved and un-notified forest areas, with such areas under mining increasing from 560ha to 1,000ha over this period. Mining has not just taken away land but is also responsible for fluctuations in groundwater table.
The development activities have also influenced the river course and reduced the width of both Irai and its tributaries Motaghat Nullah and Upsa Nullah. This has happened due to dumping of mine waste into these rivers, leading to loss of 39ha of river area.
Prof YB Katapatal from the civil engineering department of the Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, who guided the study, says, “Remote sensing is one of the best tools to conduct impact assessment studies extremely accurately in a very short time span. Development of any city has a multifaceted effect, many of which cannot be prevented. But our study can act as a good model for similar studies of other developing cities.”
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