You are here
70% of India’s coal-fired power plants won’t meet 2022 deadline, report says
India’s coal-fired power plants must meet stringent new emission norms by 2022, which were set in December 2015 by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF&CC). But a new study report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) says with barely two years to go before the deadline hits them, almost 70% of the plants will not meet the emission standards. ‘Coal-based power norms: Where do we stand today’, was released on Thursday at an online event anchored by CSE director general Sunita Narain. The study presents a comprehensive assessment of the progress in implementation of the environmental norms for coal-based thermal power plants. “Our assessment finds that even after seven years since the notification and even after the agreed five-year extension given to this sector in 2017, most of the total installed coal-fired capacity will not be compliant with the crucial sulphur dioxide (SO2) standards by 2022,” said Narain. “Coal-fired power plants are some of the most polluting industries in the country. They account for over 60% of the total particulate matter (PM) emissions from all industry, as well as 45% of the SO2, 30% of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and over 80% 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,” added Narain. With 56% of generation capacity being based on it, coal is the mainstay of India’s power sector, says the CSE study. Besides being accountable for emissions of pollutants like SO2, the sector is also extremely water-intensive – it is responsible for 70% of total freshwater withdrawal by all industries in the country. Here are some of the recommendations of the report: ~ The environment ministry should issue directions and impose hefty fines on the plants which clearly will not meet the 2022 deadline. High penalties/closure notices should be issued for non-compliant Delhi-NCR airshed plants at least for the peak winter pollution months. ~ Take urgent decision regarding the older plants which cannot meet the already lax emission standards. These must be retired/refurbished to use alternative fuels or move towards using the plants for biomass gasification or ultra-modern municipal waste processing units. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her 2020 budget speech, discussed the need to close these plants. ~ The deadline should be non-negotiable for plants which came up after the notification – the report says many of them are still not compliant. ~ Take urgent action on the implementation of water standards by issuing directions and by improvement in the monitoring framework so that plants are held accountable.