Coal power plants in India flouting emission control norms: Report


Out of around 500 units of coal-based power plants in India over 300 are not adhering to the emission norms notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in December 2015, a report by Greenpeace India, Help Delhi Breathe, My Right to Breathe, Jhatkaa, The Climate Agenda and Urban Jyoti Abhiyaan (URJA) said.

After a survey of the coal-based thermal power plants, two years after the ministry revised the emission norms on December 7, 2015, a group of NGOs including Greenpeace and others, came up with a report pointing out why India surpasses China in terms of sulphur dioxide emissions.

“These norms were to come into effect by 7th December 2017. But, despite being given two years to implement these norms, the Ministry of Power and Central Electricity Authority, along with the power industry, are attempting to push the dates further by 5-7 years till 2022-24 and also relaxing the water usage limits,” the report stated.

According to the report based on several RTIs filed by the activists, of seven random power plants across seven states, none adhered to the standards in terms of installation of devises to control the emission of nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide.

The ministry rules bind all thermal power plants to install three technologies before December 7, 2017 — Electrostatic Precipitators (ESPs) to control particulate matter (PM), Flue Gas Desulphurisation (FGT) for Sulhpur oxides and modification of burners for designs for low nitrogen oxide emissions.

“Out of the 90 power plants that we asked information from, we got responses from 17. Most of these plants have technologies in place for PM but none for SO2 or NOx,” said the report released by the volunteers and activists from Greenpeace India, Help Delhi Breathe, My Right to Breathe, Jhatkaa, The Climate Agenda and Urban Jyoti Abhiyaan (URJA).

The plants quoted in report includes those from Rajasthan (two units), Tamil Nadu (one unit), Maharashtra (four units), West Bengal (two units), Haryana (three units), Karnataka (one unit) and Madhya Pradesh (four units).

While most of the plants had ESPs installed to control particle pollution, none had FGD and none except Tamil Nadu had a redesigned burner for low NOx emission.

Speaking of the timeline to install the emission control technologies, Madhya Pradesh power plants had committed to install the SO2 and NOx controller by March 2021; one plant in Maharashtra said that it would install in next four-six years; West Bengal units in three years, while no timeline compliance was given by those in Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Karnataka.

Of the total 3,29,204.53 MW of India’s total power generation, about 62 per cent — 1,94,402.88 MW — comes from coal.

The report referred to other international journals like Lancet, stating that air quality in Indian cities had deteriorated due to unchecked emission from power plants.

In Delhi, which recently faced smog situation, shutting down the coal-based Badarpur power plant is one of the measures to control air pollution under the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP).