12% population in polluted Korba industrial area highly vulnerable to COVID-19: Chh'garh minister

New Delhi, Apr 10 () Chhattisgarh minister Jai Singh Aggarwal on Friday flagged that around 12 per cent of the population in the Korba industrial area in the state suffers from asthma and bronchitis due to extreme pollution and is highly vulnerable to infections like COVID-19.

The state minister for disaster management in a letter to his colleague and Industries Minister Kawasi Lakhma said that the novel coronavirus disease can have a major impact on the population suffering from asthma and bronchitis in the industrial area.

Korba is extremely polluted due to open-cast coal mines and coal-fired plants, he said.

"The State Health Resource Centre (SHRC), Chhattisgarh, has in its report said that around 12 per cent of the population in the Korba industrial area spread over 11 kilometres is suffering from asthma and bronchitis. These people are highly vulnerable to the threat of coronavirus," Aggarwal wrote.Advertisement

He has requested Lakhma to instruct officials in his department to take immediate steps to control emissions.

Health impact assessment should be made mandatory like environment impact assessment before industries are set up, Aggarwal suggested.Prabir Chatterjee, former director, SHRC Chhattisgarh, said it is encouraging to see that the minister has taken notice of the report.

"We too will encourage other cabinet ministers to take up this cause and begin health impact assessments in the interest of the common man, displaced and tribal communities whom they represent," he said.

Aarti Khosla, Director at Climate Trends, a Delhi-based strategic communications body that specialises in building narratives around climate change, said, "Predisposition to ill health, for example respiratory conditions like asthma, which are prevalent in industrial areas which are thermal power clusters like Korba, lead to reduced lung function."

"While scientific studies can reveal exact correlation, it is only obvious that poor lung capacity makes such people a high risk group for infections like coronavirus," she said.The findings from the health study show "significantly elevated prevalence of respiratory diseases" among the exposed population in Korba, the power capital of Chhattisgarh with 10 coal-fired power plants.Advertisement

Korba also has the world's second largest open cast coal mines, Gevra, and other major open cast coal mines such as Kusmunda and Dipka.

The most common cause of pollution in the locality are the emissions from thermal power plants; dumping of fly ash and ash slurry; outflow of coolant water into river impacting the flora, fauna and fish and groundwater contamination because of coal storage yards and ash ponds. GVS ANBANB

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