300 cola power plants throw pollution norms
Even after two years of setting emission standard norms, more than 300 coal power plants across the country continue to violate them. Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) emissions in India have been increasing alarmingly since 2012, said activists.
Satellite data suggests that SO2 emissions have increased by approximately 32% in the last 5 years. Also particulate matter 2.5, the most lethal of all dust-related pollutants has increased by 13%. The hotspots where air pollution due to coal plants is rife are Singrauli, Korba – Raigarh, Angul, Chandrapur, Mundra and Delhi National Capital Region.
The report states that the PM 2.5 levels have rampantly increased in India, while China at the same time reduced its levels by 17% due to time-bound implementation of pollution-control action plan. Specifically mentioning Delhi’s air pollution, the report states that emissions from thermal power plants within a radius of 300 kilometres from Delhi need to be curbed along with other sources.
According to the Central Pollution Control Board, if the new standards are implemented, it will cut down approximately 40% of PM emissions and 48% of both nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide as pollutant from power generation sector.
Sunil Dahiya, Senior Campaigner, Greenpeace India said, “The inaction by government to implement emission standards for coal-based power plants is a clear indication of the lack of political will, and demonstrates that the interests of some industries like coal is placed above public health. This needs to change immediately. Big polluters should be brought to book for releasing toxic emissions into the atmosphere, as it is the government’s responsibility to ensure a healthier and cleaner environment for its citizens. This will not be achieved without imposing stringent controls on polluting emissions by the power sector.”
“These norms were to come into effect by December 7. But despite being given two years to implement these norms, the Ministry of Power and Central Electricity Authority, along with power industry, is attempting to push the dates further by 5-7 years till 2022-24 and also relaxing the water usage limits,” said Dahiya.
According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) new norms have limited emissions of particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury and reduced water usage by coal-powered thermal power plants. These emissions are a key contributor to surging particulate matter levels in India, with the coal power sector being a key contributor to air pollution.
Avijit Michael from Jhatkaa.org said, “It is disappointing to note that power plants have not taken sufficient action in the past 2 years, and are now requesting even more time to install the necessary emission reduction technology. Thousands of Indians have petitioned Dr Harshvardhan. The MoEFCC must penalise defaulters to clearly demonstrate that they consider the health of Indian citizens as a priority. ”
Emphasizing the impact on public health due to emissions from sources like the coal-based power plants, the Indian Medical Association Chairman, Dr KK Agrawal said, “As a representative of the medical fraternity, I cannot emphasize enough the necessity of reducing emissions from thermal power plants. Smog is a complex mixture formed by various pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and dust particles, which interact with sunlight to form ground-level ozone, leading to the buildup of haze that hangs in industrial cities. This is a high-alert situation for not only Delhi but villages and towns near these plants as well, with children and older adults at high risk. Those with lung disorders and breathing issues are also highly vulnerable to the ill effects of this condition. Air pollution is responsible for premature deaths in Delhi and across the country. Its repercussions may not be immediately obvious but the long-term implications of air pollution are fatal.