Greenpeace India Launches Report - Out Of Sight

Out of Sight - How coal burning advances India’s Air Pollution Crisis

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Feature story - May 24, 2016
New Delhi 23rd May 2016| A report released today by Greenpeace India, “Out of Sight - How coal burning advances India’s Air Pollution Crisis” reveals coal as the largest overlooked source of air pollution, and identifies air pollution emission hotspots in India visibly linked to thermal power plants in the area.

Out of Sight - How coal burning advances India’s Air Pollution Crisis reveals coal as the largest overlooked source of air pollution. Satellite based analysis from 2009 to 2015 reveals the thermal power plant clusters in Singrauli, Korba – Raigarh, Angul, Chandrapur, Mundra and NCR  were the  source of SO2 and NO2 emission growth in India over the past five years, showing nationwide increase of 13% and 31% respectively for PM2.5 and SO2. Using similar data earlier studies have shown an increase of 20% in the regional trends for NO2 levels over the last decade.

Secondary particulate matter formed by SO2 and NO2 is one of the major contributors to PM2.5 levels:  Multiple research studies have emphasised that 30% to 34% of total PM2.5 concentration in India is contributed by the secondary particulates, most of which come from the burning of fossil fuels. Large industrial clusters show up as hotspots of SO2 and NOemissions, and it is no coincidence that these major hotspots overlap with the highest coal consumption.

Explaining the trend of the increase of secondary particulates, Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Greenpeace India said, “To address the air pollution crisis, we need to accept that coal burning is responsible for increased emissions of SO2 and NOcontributing to overall particulate matter concentration and identify the correlation between such increases and major coal consuming hot-spots in the country. An estimated 75 - 90% of sulphates and 50% nitrates are formed from SO2 and NOx emissions primarily originating from the thermal power plants. The satellite images clearly show that the emissions are highest in the regions where a lot of coal is being burnt.”

The current installed capacity of thermal power generation is causing a steady deterioration in the overall air quality in North India. “With polluted air travelling long distances and contributing to deteriorating health over India, we must quickly adopt the new emission standards prescribed for thermal power plants, and reduce the negative health impacts of our energy sources,” added Dahiya.

A recent report by IIT Kanpur on Delhi’s air pollution indicated that it would need a comprehensive and systematic plan in place for an area of at least 300 kilometres around Delhi, to make a meaningful impact on the air quality in the capital.  It requires urgent, coordinated inter-agency efforts to resolve the crisis not just for Delhi but to address the pollution in most north Indian cities. A comprehensive and time bound regional clean action plan to reduce pollution from all the major sources in the Indo-Gangetic Plain region is the need of the hour.

Greenpeace is calling for an ambitious and systematic national clean air action plan, with focused targets, clear timelines and demonstrable accountability towards public health. “Now that we have a clear understanding of the primary and secondary sources causing pollution, it provides us an opportunity to test India’s emergency response plan on air pollution,” concludes Dahiya.