Nation Wants to Breathe but Government to Ease Norms for Polluters

Delayed implementation of notified emission Standards could result in setbacks

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Press release - November 6, 2016
New Delhi| November 3, 2016| As the nation reels under the harmful effects of air pollution, in a shocking move the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) indicated easing of the timelines for implementing the notified emission standards for coal fired power plants.

Even though scientific reports have clearly established thermal power plants [1] as primary contributors to air pollution, the government seems ready to appease polluters with what could amount to years and years of delays. With this, it has shown a complete disregard for public health. A recent UNICEF report [2] has highlighted the premature deaths, and long term effects on children's development, caused by air pollution.

Appallingly, it has been a year since fresh emission standards for thermal power plants were communicated to the power producers. “We are already halfway through the two years set for thermal power plants to meet these standards. These emission standards, if implemented in a time-bound manner, could already have significantly improved air quality right across India. We expected to see concrete action taken by now. Easing the deadlines, instead of enforcing them strictly, suggests that this is not being taken seriously at all,” says Sunil Dahiya, Greenpeace India campaigner.

Dahiya adds, “The government must acknowledge that air pollution is a public health emergency. The staggered approach of implementing the new standards, as suggested by the CEA, would imply prolonged, unnecessary delays in addressing emissions of SO2 and NOx, the pollutants from power plants contributing most to India’s air pollution crisis. Public health has to be prioritised over anything else and any revisions to the timeline for implementing the emission standards must only be based on technical constraints, that too on a case by case basis. Right now, it looks like an effort to shield polluters from the costs of cleaning up.”

Greenpeace India’s report, ‘Out of Sight’ [3] released earlier this year, highlighted coal as the largest overlooked source of worsening air quality.The reportalso found that air pollution emission hotspots in India were visibly linked to thermal power plants in the area. Subsequently, research undertaken by IIT Kanpur for Delhi [4] clearly evidenced that SO2 and NOx emitted by thermal power plants contributes to the high PM2.5 levels through secondary particle [5] formation. Various other researchers have also estimated that thermal power plants are responsible for approximately 34% contribution of secondary particles (inorganic aerosols) to the total PM2.5 concentration levels.  Delaying implementation of these standards would severely hamper efforts to clean the air in India.

Greenpeace India’s Clean Air Nation campaign is calling for:

  • An ambitious and systematic national clean air action plan, with focused targets, clear timelines and demonstrable accountability towards public health;

  • Time-bound implementation of the new thermal power plant emission standards as an essential and important part of the clean air action plan for India.

For further reading:
[1] CEA’s indication of easing deadlines for power producers:
[2] Unicef report:
[3] Greenpeace report: Out of Sight:
[4 ]IIT Kanpur report:
[5] Link between TPPs SOx and NOx: Precursor gases such as, SO2, NOx and Ammonia are major contributors to the secondary particulate formation. An estimated 75% - 90% of sulphates and 50% nitrates are formed from SO2 and NOx emissions originating from the stacks of thermal power plants. (source:Out of Sight)   
For further information:
Anindita Datta Choudhury: Senior Media Officer - +91 9871515804