State and private sector power plants are the worst when it comes to cleaning up their act to reduce pollution from power generation, central sector is not doing great too.
New Delhi, December 5: On November 2, due to unprecedented air quality, Health Emergency was declared in New Delhi.
Much of the public narrative about pollution in Delhi and North India is related to stubble burning but rapid growth in coal based thermal power generation is largely out of sight for urban India, this being one of the key factors of the pollution crisis.
In such a scenario, it is important that coal-based power plants follow TPP emission standards. Earlier Greenpeace analysis suggested that more than 75,000 people will die every year without implementing the new emission norms. CPCB earlier have also estimated that if TPP emission standards were followed, sulphur dioxide emissions could be reduced by 48 %, Nitrogen dioxide emissions by 48% and particulate matter (PM) emissions by up to 40%.
In 2015, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) legislated new standards to restrict and reduce hazardous emissions from coal-fired power plants giving them two years timeline till 7th December 2017. MoP (Ministry of Power) and APP (Association of Power Producers) extensively argued for extending and diluting the norms using unsound arguments on science and timelines which helped them secure an extension for implementation of the norms running from 2019 to 2022 in a staggered timeline.
According to the phasing plan for installing FGD (Flue Gas Desulphurisation) 16410 MW capacity out of total 166472 MW should have installed it by December 2019 but only 8% of this target is achieved so far which shows complete ignorance of public health emergency of air pollution in northern India by the power generators and the government.
Analysis of 440 plants across the country pointed out that bids for FGD have been awarded for only 36560 MW out of 166472MW which is only 22% of the target. Notices for inviting tenders (NIT) were issued for 99195 MW units only. The percentage of bids awarded by Central, State and Private sector were 38%; 2% & 4 % respectively out of the capacity to be retrofitted for respective sectors.
Commenting on the curious case of non-compliance, Avinash Chanchal from Greenpeace India said, “It is high time to take strict steps to put pressure on thermal power plants so that they can meet the target. Power plants should be penalized or shut-down for non-compliance of order. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Supreme Court must also monitor the progress in installation process of FGD and also set interim timeline.”
He further added, “In Delhi-NCR 33 units were identified to install FGD till December this year but 31 units (9470MW capacity) failed to meet the deadline, this is an environmental and human rights crime to force citizens to breathe polluted air impacting their health. Polluters should be dealt with serious penal actions to set a precedent for others to not to follow the same sluggish attitude towards addressing public health emergency.” “The assessment indicates that power plants in Delhi-NCR usually take 9 to 14 months between notice for inviting tenders and bid award while it took around 18 to 24 months for awarding contract to install FGD. Given this, timeline of December 2022 target for power plants across the country seems impossible to meet and the only responsible agencies for this are power plant operators and government,” concluded Avinash.
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Air pollution is costing lives. Too many of us are breathing dirty, toxic air and facing its direct consequences.