Even as the government has decided to allow commercial mining of coal, a study done by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has found that 70 per cent of India's coal fired power plants may not meet the more stringent emission norms that kick into effect in 2022.
The new norms that seek to reduce particulate matter emissions by 35 per cent, sulphur dioxide by 80 per cent and nitrous oxide by 42 per cent were originally slated to kick in by 2017 but were relaxed by 5 years to let the power sector ready itself. CSE fears government's intent of expediting and enhancing coal mining in the country may also result in higher pollution if the power sector is not reigned in.
"We cannot accept that we will continue to use coal without emission control. We want growth post-lockdown, but it has to be a growth which comes with our right to clean air. This must be equally important," says Sunita Narain, director, CSE. "Our assessment finds that most of the total installed coal-fired capacity will not be compliant with the crucial sulphur dioxide (SO2) standards by 2022."
Coal accounts for 56 per cent of power generated in India and accounts for over 60 per cent of particulate matter emissions, 45 per cent of sulphur, 30 per cent of nitrogen oxides and over 80 per cent of mercury emissions in the country. It also consumes 70 per cent of total fresh water that is used for industrial purposes in the country.
"Coal-fired power plants are some of the most polluting industries in the country. Therefore, even as we continue using coal, India's thermal power sector must clean up its act. This is absolutely non-negotiable," Narain says.
CSE has demanded hefty penalties on plants that end up not meeting the 2022 deadline and for the government to not extend it further. Further, it wants older plants that do not meet even the current regulations to be either refurbished at the earliest, or shut down.