NGO argues that new emission norms for power plants to entail huge expense

The Veterans Forum for Transparency in Public Life, an NGO, recently filed an application in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against the Environment Ministry for notifying emission norms for thermal power plants without scientifically assessing their likely impacts on improving the ambient air quality.

The NGO also argued against the likely environmental Impacts of installation of wet lime FGD technology for controlling sulphur dioxide from thermal power plants.

NGT heard the whole matter from the NGO on July 14 and felt that the matter is more of technical issue and understanding; and considering the facts and figures, NGT advised the NGO through Order to approach CPCB for consideration of their viewpoint.

Environment Ministry notified revised emission norms for coal-based power plants in the country specifying limits for pollutants like SPM, SO2, NOx and Mercury. Most of the power plants are complying with the prescribed emission norms for SPM, NOx and Mercury.

However, majority of them are still far away from meeting the emission norms for SO2. The timeline for complying these norms was December 31, 2019 for Power plants in Delhi-NCR region and up to December 2022 for other power plants.

To control SO2 emissions from power plants, wet lime based FGD technology is selected as the optimum technology by most of the power plants in India and the same is recommended by CEA also.

Majority of the coal-based power plants could not adhere to the implementation schedule for FGD installation due to concerns like non availability of technical specifications from Central Electricity Authority till June, 2018 ; minimum time of 36 months required for implementing FGD after Order placement; requirement of large capital investment to the tune of Rs 50 to 80 lakhs per MW and the subsequent high recurring opex

The NGO argued that it necessitates to carry out plant specific studies for analysing the contribution the coal-based plants on the air pollution of nearby cities and metros.

Enforcing SO2 emission norms for all power plants in India shall require capital expenditure to the tune of Rs 1 lakh crore ($14 billion) and most of which will go to foreign companies (mostly Chinese) and is approximately three per cent total forex reserves of the country.

Besides all these coal-based power plants shall run out of life over the next 15 to 20 years and some even in less than 10 years thus making this large investment as national wastage without accruing any environmental benefits.

In addition, Enforcing SO2 emission norms shall have huge impact on environment by large scale mining and transportation of lime, additional water requirement for FGD, burning of coal to meet the additional 1.5 per cent auxiliary power requirement, pollution due to handling limestone (FGD reagent) and generation of Gypsum (FGD by-product) and transportation and disposal of FGD Gypsum which contains heavy metals and may pollute underground water, besides requiring large land area for disposal, and most importantly, additional release of about 16 Million Tonnes of CO2 per annum.

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