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65 pc coal-fired power plants may not meet green norms even by extended deadline of 2022: CSE

In 2015, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had notified emission norms for four pollutants in the coal-based thermal power sector, which are particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and mercury. The deadline for meeting the norms was set for 2019, which was later extended till 2022 under pressure from the industry, the CSE said.

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 18-09-2020 16:30 IST | Created: 18-09-2020 16:09 IST
65 pc coal-fired power plants may not meet green norms even by extended deadline of 2022: CSE
Representative image Image Credit: ANI

Sixty-five percent of the coal-fired power plants in India may not be able to comply with emission norms, as notified by the Union Environment ministry, even by the extended deadline of 2022, an environmental think tank said on Friday. In its latest assessment, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said a large number of coal-fired power plants in India continue to be "lax" and "laid back" when it comes to getting ready to meet the deadline. In 2015, the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had notified emission norms for four pollutants in the coal-based thermal power sector, which are particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and mercury.

The deadline for meeting the norms was set for 2019, which was later extended till 2022 under pressure from the industry, the CSE said. "2022 is going to be their deadline for meeting environmental norms, but a new and updated assessment by the CSE finds that a very large number of coal-fired power plants in India continue to be completely lax and laid back when it comes to getting ready to meet the deadline. "In fact, at the rate that they are going, 65 percent of them may not be able to comply even by this extended deadline," said Nivit Kumar Yadav, senior program manager of CSE's industrial pollution team.

The norms categorize power plants into three groups – units installed before 2004, between 2004 and 2016, and to be commissioned after 2016. Different emission and water discharge standards have been specified for each category. "Power stations installed before 2004 have to meet lenient PM and NOx norms which are 100 milligrams per cubic meter (mg/Nm3) and 600 mg/Nm3, respectively. Mercury standards do not apply to this category.

"Plants commissioned between January 1, 2004, and 2016 have to meet slightly tighter norms of 50 mg/Nm3 for PM, 450 mg/Nm3 for NOx, and 0.03mg/Nm3 for mercury," the CSE said. Sulfur dioxide norms for both the categories are based on the unit size, it said, adding that units of a size larger than 500 megawatts (MW) will need to meet 200 mg/Nm3 and those smaller, 600 mg/Nm3.

New power stations (commissioned post-January 1, 2017) have to meet PM norms of 30 mg/Nm3, SO2, and NOxnorms of 100 mg/Nm3, mercury norm of 0.03 mg/Nm3. "Units commissioned after January 1, 2017, have to meet the most stringent standards. Older and smaller units have to comply with relatively lenient norms compared to newer and bigger units – the rationale was the age of the plant and the need to retire these facilities, which meant that investment in improvement could be avoided," the CSE said.

In May this year, CSE's Director General Sunita Narain had said coal-fired power plants are some of the most polluting industries in the country. "They account for over 60 percent of the total PM emissions from all industry, as well as 45 percent of the SO2, 30 percent of NOx and over 80 percent of the mercury emissions. Therefore, even as we continue using coal, India's thermal power sector must clean up its act. This is absolutely non-negotiable," Narain had said. The latest CSE assessment, which has noted the progress till August 2020, said only 56 percent of the total capacity complies with the new PM norms and a mere 35 percent complies with the SO2 norms. "This is just a 3 percent increase in compliance for PM norms and 5 percent for SO2 norms when compared to October last year," it said.

Sundaram Ramanathan, deputy program manager, industrial pollution unit, CSE, said center-owned plants appear to be leading in the implementation of SO2 norms, followed by privately-owned ones but the "state-owned units have made no progress." He, however, pointed out that one of the obstacles that any assessment of the sector may face is the lack of data. "For instance, the new assessment has not managed to find out the state of compliance with the norms for mercury and specific water consumption, or a complete scenario of the level of compliance for PM and NOx, because there is no information about them in the public domain, Ramanathan said.


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