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  Table of Contents 
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 73-75

Environmental health impact assessment of national aluminum company, Orissa

Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Medical College, SRM University, Chennai, India

Date of Web Publication29-Nov-2011

Correspondence Address:
Rajan R Patil
Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, 3rd Floor, Medical College, SRM University, Potheri, Kattakulathur - 603 203, Chennai
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5278.90378

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Environmental Health Impact Assessment of industries is an important tool help decision-makers make choices about alternatives and improvements to prevent disease/injury and to actively promote health around industrial sites. A rapid environmental health hazard and vulnerability assessment of National Aluminum Company was undertaken in the villages in the vicinity plant in Angul region of Orissa. Aluminum smelter plant was known to discharge hundreds of tones of fluoride in to the environment contaminating the ecosystem around the plant. The present Environmental health impact assessment was carried out in 2005-06 at the request of officials from Government of Orissa. The findings showed adverse effects on human, veterinary and ecological health. Human health effects manifestations included dental and skeletal fluorosis. Veternary health effects were manifested through skeletal fluorosis. Ecological adverse effects were manifested by damage to paddy fields and crop yield.

Keywords: Environmental Health, Orissa

How to cite this article:
Patil RR. Environmental health impact assessment of national aluminum company, Orissa. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2011;15:73-5

How to cite this URL:
Patil RR. Environmental health impact assessment of national aluminum company, Orissa. Indian J Occup Environ Med [serial online] 2011 [cited 2023 Mar 28];15:73-5. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Environmental health assessments have been scarce in India, the author has been part of a few field investigations [1],[2],[3],[4] which have been successful in highlighting the environmental health issues in India. The current field study on Environmental Health Impact Assessment of National Aluminum Company (NALCO) was carried out at the request of the Secretary, Department of Forest and Environment, Government of Orissa. This report is based on a rapid environmental health hazard and vulnerability assessment of NALCO undertaken by the author in the villages in the vicinity of aluminum smelters about 5 years back in 2005-2006.

Originally, the site for aluminum smelter was selected at the time when the concept of environment Health Impact Assessment was not prevalent and the state and the Pollution Control Board (PCB) was not born. A giant-sized aluminum smelter plant is situated near densely populated area. Angul Talcher attracted large industries because of large deposits of coal and high flow in river Bahmani. In recent years, community resentmentment is building up against NALCO for being a source of pollution and subsequent economic and health consequences arising thereof.

  Findings of the Rapid Assessment Top

Hazards Identification

  1. Metallic shiny aluminum powder dust can be seen deposited everywhere in the villages, i.e., on the roofs, on walls, on trees and vegetation and in wells of drinking water.
  2. Effluent from NALCO is being let out without satisfactory treatment and it is directly let into a small rivulet (stream) that is the source of drinking water for the surrounding villages, especially during summer when the wells are dried up.
  3. Gas and fumes emitted from smelters of NALCO are causing damages to hundreds of acres of paddy fields with standing crop getting burnt (dried and shriveled).
  4. Hazard identification is a major step to be taken by every government.

PCB estimates that about 220 tones of fluoride come out of smelter plants and through emission which is contaminating the ecosystem around the NALCO plant, way beyond the acceptable standards, for example, in Tulsipal village the fluoride level was estimated to be 2.5 mg/L (acceptable standard is below 1.5 mg/L).

  Adverse Health Effects : Following Health Outcomes Top

Human health risks identified

Expectedly, specific health problems are widely prevalent:

  1. Dental fluorosis.
  2. Skeletal fluorosis-causing chronic pain and locomotor (mobility) problems.

Surveys are required to quantify these risks.

Veterinary health risks

Skeletal problems can be seen even in cattles.

Findings of Impact of Industrial pollution on the domestic animals of Angul Talcher area by Orissa Agriculture University Showed Skeletal problems in cattles in 1993-1994.

Ecological effects

The following [Table 1] provides the impact of NALCO pollution on agriculture.
Table 1: Impact of NALCO pollution on agriculture

Click here to view

The Pollution Control Board, Orissa investigated the agriculture damage in 1999 and in 2004 have confirmed officially in their report on fluoride levels and the damage it was causing to paddy fields. Agriculture university researchers have confirmed the link. The PCB confirmed that 800 acres of paddy damage in 1999 was due to deposition of fluoride compounds from the NALCO smelter. Consequently, NALCO had paid compensation to rice farmers @4300/acre. In August 2004, the damage to paddy crops was estimated to be spread across 600 acres due to leakage of a poison gas from the smelter according to PCB and Orissa Agriculture University.

Exposure pathway

  1. A rivulet (stream) which is popularly called literally foms the lifeline for the villages. The water from the rivulet was being used for daily use and for feeding the live stock. NALCO's effluent is let into the rivulet.
  2. A single drinking water source for this village is an open well that had 30 ft of water. This well was hardly 100 m away from the rivulet canal carrying the NALCO's effluent, this effluent canal ends in Bahmani river is about 1.5 km from the village.
  3. The drinking water well goes dry for almost 6 months around the summer season. The villagers had no option, but to resort to the NALCO polluted rivulet for their drinking water requirements by digging shallow puddles near the stream.
  4. In monsoon, the rivulet canal overflows to the fields resulting in flooded water reach to the well and contaminates the drinking water.
  5. In effect whether summer or monsoon, the community was forced to consume highly contaminated rivulet water.

According to the earlier assessment, the fluoride concentration in the surface water drains increased to a level about 29 mg/L in monsoons. The waste water quantity becomes as high as 1000 m 3 /h which is beyond the capacity of defluoridation plant (150 m 3 /h) intake. During monsoon, there was no control measure from NALCO and all fluoride containing effluent was let out in Kisinda Jhor.

  Risk Management Top

NALCO was supplying two tankers of water every summer which is grossly inadequate to villagers, hence to compensate for the deficit the villagers drink the water from the polluted rivulet.

Risk mitigation measures undertaken

  1. Piped water was being supplied by NALCO (polluter pays principle).
  2. Fencing of ponds to prevent castles from drinking water with high fluoride contents.
  3. Health education on fluorosis.

  Recommendation Top

Rapid assessment was undertaken to carry out quick situation analysis to understand the environmental health issues surrounding the NALCO Plant. However, a detailed Environmental Health Risk Assessment is recommended to quantify the health risks.

The findings of the field study were formally submitted to the State Pollution Control Board, Orissa.

  Acknowledgments Top

Mr. Chittarajan Sarangi, Managing Trustee, Tapobhoomi Trust, Orissa, who is also a Mission Director, Science and Technology Department, Orissa, was the focal point in coordinating this field investigation. He accompanied and assisted the author during the field visits and interviewing affected communities.

  References Top

1.Patil RR. Circumstances leading to death of Indian Cotton farmers. Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2002;15:405-7.   Back to cited text no. 1
2.Patil RR. Asbestos mining and health hazards-A public hearing report. Proceedings of Divisional level training workshop (ND-III) on Technological Disaster for District administration and Industries. Sponsored by Ministry of Environment and Forests, GOI; 2004 June 28 th and 29 th ; Multi disciplinary Centre on Safety, Health and Environment, Angul, India, 2004.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Patil RR. Community-based occupational/environmental health studies: The challenges and the dilemmas. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2006;10:85-6.   Back to cited text no. 3
  Medknow Journal  
4.Patil RR. Investigating genetic outcomes following 1984 toxic union carbide disaster in India: Epidemiological challenges. Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2010;23:397-8.  Back to cited text no. 4


  [Table 1]


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