Environment ministry calls for control of particulate matter emissions and cutting of water use by coal-based thermal power plants
To check pollution from thermal power plants, the environment ministry has proposed stringent emission and water consumption standards.
The ministry on 15 May put on its website a draft notification to amend the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986, with the Environment (Protection) Amendment Rules, 2015.
It proposes to control emissions of particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury and also cut water use by coal-based thermal power plants.
Experts say the proposed changes are significant as India currently has poor standards to check these emissions from the thermal power sector. The new standards are estimated to cut PM emissions from new thermal plants (after 2017) by 25%, sulphur dioxide emissions by 90%, nitrogen oxides by 70% and mercury by 75%. The plant set up after 2003 will come under slightly relaxed norms.
“It doesn’t mean existing plants will be let off. They will have to meet tighter standards than what they are following right now. These were important requirements as India’s emissions and water consumption standards for this sector are very low compared to international standards,” a ministry official involved in the process of making these new standards said, requesting anonymity.
The ministry has sought views and suggestions from all stakeholders within 30 days.
Thermal power sector is one of the most polluting in India. Earlier this year, the non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had released environmental rating of the coal-based thermal power plants. It had ranked 47 plants (55% of the nation’s capacity) on various environment parameters and found 55% of them were violating air pollution standards.
“We welcome this move. It will have an impact on the pollution caused by the thermal power sector in India,” said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of CSE.
The new norms will also require all existing cooling tower-based plants to restrict water consumption.
According to CSE, the new standards will lead to an 80% cumulative drop in freshwater withdrawal by thermal power plants from around 22 billion cubic metre in 2011-12 to around 4.5 billion cubic metre in 2016-17.
“Water is the lifeline of millions of people. We are happy that much less water will be used by power plants and more will be available to people. Taken together, these constitute a significant attempt on controlling pollution and water use by this key sector,” said Bhushan.