Times News Network, May 22 2017
Despite the alarming pollution around Koradi Thermal Power Station(KTPS), the state government is looking at ways to circumvent a critical environmental rule that makes it mandatory to install a pollution control unit called the flue gas desulphuriser (FGD). This unit controls emissions of sulphur dioxide, which is the cause of acid rain, corrodes buildings and structures, and affects human health.
The environmental clearance issued by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to the project on January 4, 2010, said that Mahagenco was to install FGD for the new units no. 8, 9 and 10. An FGD unit costs Rs400 crore.
State energy minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule told TOI that a coal sampling would be done first. “We will sample coal supplied to KTPS. If high amount of sulphur is found, only then will we install the FGD,” he said.
Recent data provided by KTPS revealed that sulphur dioxide levels were five times higher than permissible limits. The plant is under the lens after the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) asked for a clarification on allegations that air quality monitoring data was fudged. The state is clearly looking at ways to avoid the additional cost which will be incurred if FGDs are to be installed. The state claims that installing FGD units will lead to increase in power tariff.
Experts, however, say that the state can’t decide on its own. “MoEFCC has asked Mahagenco to install a FGD. The company can’t decide whether to do it or not. They must approach the ministry for a waiver, if at all,” says Pune-based power expert Shripad Dharmadhikari.
Environment expert Debi Goenka, who has done extensive research on thermal power plants, says that taking a decision on the basis of coal sampling is not the right approach. “FGD units not only reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide but also mercury and other harmful gases. If the ministry has made the unit mandatory for all thermal power plants, KTPS cannot get an exemption, especially since it is so close to human habitation,” he adds. KTPS is hardly 10 kilometres from the city limits.
According to Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), which manufactures FGDs, the sulphur content in Indian coal is between 0.25% and 0.5%. About 95% of the sulphur is converted into sulphur dioxide (SO2).
About two years ago, Mahagenco, the company which runs KTPS, had floated an expression of interest (EoI) for installation of FGD for the 660MW Unit 10. However, sources said, Bawankule and some senior Mahagenco officials have now decided not to install it. In February last year, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis too had sought a waiver for FGD. He wrote a letter in this regard to environment minister Prakash Javadekar on July 8, 2015.