Govt gives two-year extension to thermal power plants on SO2 norms


The Union environment ministry has extended the deadlines for to install technologies and comply with new .

This is the third time that the deadlines have been pushed in the last five years.

In a notification issued on Monday, the ministry said the deadline for the power plants within a 10-km radius of Delhi-NCR and cities with a population of more than 10 lakh has been extended from December 31, 2022 to December 31, 2024.

For the power plants in a 10-km radius of critically-polluted areas or non-attainment cities, the deadline has been pushed from December 31, 2023 to December 31, 2025.

“Non-attainment cities” are those that have consistently failed to meet the Ambient Air Quality Standards. The Central Board (CPCB) has identified 132 such cities.

For all other power plants across the country, the deadline has been pushed from December 31, 2024 to December 31, 2026.

The ministry also said the power plant units declared to retire before December 31, 2027 will not be required to meet the specified norms for SO2 (sulphur dioxide) emissions in case such plants submit an undertaking to the CPCB and the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) for exemption on the ground of retirement.

The environment ministry had revised the for particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide and the oxides of nitrogen for (TPPs) in December 2015, requiring those to install emission control systems by December 2017.

The deadline was pushed to December 2022 for all the power stations in the country in view of implementation issues and challenges. However, the power stations in the Capital Region (NCR) were required to comply with the revised norms by December 2019.

The deadline was pushed to 2024 in March last year, with the power ministry citing a delay due to various reasons, including the coronavirus pandemic and import restrictions.

Little progress has been made in the 18 months since the last extension was given to the polluting coal plants, said Sunil Dahiya, an analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).

“No new coal-based unit installed FGD systems in the last 18 months. Bids were only awarded for units having a cumulative capacity of 15 gigawatt. A delay in the implementation is being awarded with another extension rather than fines or shutdowns,” he added.

In a flue-gas desulphurisation system (FGD) system, sulphur compounds are removed from the exhaust emissions of fossil-fuelled power stations.

“The were put in place, recognising the coal-based power plants as a major factor contributing to air pollution and resulting in mortality, and these extensions in the implementation show that the interest of the polluters prevails more than public health in India, and that needs to stop immediately,” Dahiya said.

Ritwick Dutta, an environmental lawyer and the founder of Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE), said, “The fact that another extension has been given clearly shows that the emission norms will never be implemented. All power plants were required to achieve the target for the emission standards by December 2017. All missed the target on one pretext or the other. Now, it has been further extended.”

“Unfortunately, the environment ministry has become an advisory ministry rather than a regulatory ministry. Instead of taking punitive action against the violators, all that it is doing is succumbing to the dictates of other ministries. With this extension, a clear message has gone from the central government to all power companies that they should not take environmental norms seriously,” Dutta said.

He said it is clear that India’s Clean Air Programme (NCAP) target of reducing air pollution by 30 to 40 per cent by 2024 will never be achieved given the repeated leeway the government is giving to the violators.

The major pollutants from coal-fired power plants are the oxides of nitrogen (NOx), SO2 and particulate matter (PM).

According to the Centre for Science and Environment, the TPPs account for more than 60 per cent of total industrial emissions of particulate matter, 45 per cent of SO2, 30 per cent of NOx and more than 80 per cent of mercury in India.

These plants are also responsible for 70 per cent of the total freshwater withdrawal by all industries, according to an analysis of the green think tank.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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