NEW DELHI: Noting the increase in air pollution due to industrial units in many cities across the country, the Union environment ministry has expanded the ambit of emission standard norms of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) for five industries – ceramic, foundry industries (furnaces based on fuel), glass, lime kiln and reheating furnace – and asked states to ensure their implementation.
The emission standards for these industries were notified on March 22. It said the ministry took into account the “seriousness of air pollution that has direct impact on the human population” and therefore decided to waive of public\stakeholders’ consultation before notifying these standards under the Environment (Protection) Amendment Rules, 2018.
Normally, the ministry first puts out draft notification in public domain for comments. It then notifies it finally considering suggestions of stakeholders on the draft after 30 or 60 days.
Though the move to waive of consultation period will ensure that these standards come into force with immediate effect, its enforcement may be a big challenge keeping in view the inadequate capacity of state pollution control boards (SPCBs).
The ministry had earlier set environmental standards for the cement industry in 2016. It had also in December 2015 notified revised standards for coal-based thermal power plants (TPPs). The new standards, based on the recommendation of the central pollution control board (CPCB), were aimed at reducing emission of particulate matter (PM10), sulphur dioxide and oxide of nitrogen which would, in turn, help in bringing about an improvement in the ambient air quality (AAQ).
Enforcement of these standards for coal-based power plants have, however, been quite patchy with majority of the plants failing to meet the ministry’s earlier deadline of December 7, 2017.
Citing practical difficulties, the central electricity authority (CEA) had later sought extension of deadline for installation of necessary equipment to control emissions up to December, 2022 – five years more than what the TPPs had agreed in 2015.
Even the environment ministry had in December last year supported the CEA’s move in the Supreme Court. It had noted that since uninterrupted power supply in the country needs to be ensured at all times, it has to be done in phases to avoid problems in power supply as many units cannot be taken out for retrofitting at the same time.