Kaplan Herald, January 20 2018
Nagpur: For the next three years, Indians will continue to suffer from air pollutant sulphur-dioxide (SO2), as the deadline for coal-fired thermal power plants to install flue-gas desulfurization (FGD) has been extended. This comes at a time when international researches warn of continuous increase of sulphur emissions in India, with over 33 million people living in areas with substantial SO2 emission.
The power plants got a huge breather after the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) extended the December 2017 deadline to power plants for installing flue gas desulphurization (FGD) to minimize SO2 emissions. However, it is not clear if the ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC) has amended its December 2015 notification which asked the thermal power plants to adhere to the environmental norms by December 2017.
As per the information provided by state-run power generation company Mahagenco (Maharashtra State Power Generation Corporation Ltd), unit 10 of the Koradi Thermal Power Station (KTPS) will be the first one of the state to get the FGD technology. However, the new deadline for it is now December 2020.
Officials informed that as per a written communication by the CPCB, all three new units of KTPS, which were dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April last year, have got new deadlines. “Apart from unit 10, the new deadline for unit 8 and 9 is March 2021,” they said.
Mahagenco has reportedly floated tenders for installing FGD in unit 10.
The extension has been given following the demand made by the coal-based power sector. In June last year, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) had allotted the plants two-to-five-year reprieve from adhering to the air pollution standards. In December last year, the Union environment ministry had supported the stand of power ministry in the Supreme Court, seeking five-year extension to the deadline for meeting those standards.
Mahagenco runs seven plants in the state which have about 30 units of different capacities. As per the officials, the estimated cost of installing FGD can cost around Rs50 lakh per megawatt (MW). The three new units at KTPS are of 660mw each. This means that the cost of installing FGD in one unit can go up to Rs330 crores. For FGDs in all units, Mahagenco will have to pump in thousands of crores.
“Apart from the financial feasibility, there are many other practical problems involved. During the installation process, we will have to shut down the unit for more than 3-4 months. Right now, we are looking at the power requirement scenario of the state as we cannot stop many units at a time,” said a senior official from Mahagenco.
Activist Ankita Shah, who had filed a complaint against KTPS with the Prime Minister‘s Office, says that the extension is playing with the lives of people. “KTPS was given an environmental clearance based on certain conditions which were to be followed within a given time frame. Laws cannot be violated. If the power agency could not meet the earlier deadline, what is the guarantee it will meet the new one,” asks Shah.
While many associated with the power sector have claimed that India doesn‘t need FGD as its coal has low sulphur content, international agencies beg to differ. TOI found out at least three researches (see box) which imply that SO2 emissions in India are dangerously increasing.
“Contrary to the reports by Indian government, SO2 concentrations in coal-fired power plant regions increased by 60% during 2005-2012, implying that the air quality monitoring network in India is not reflecting the real situation,” says a 2013 report of Nasa and Saint Louis University.
In a satellite image which was released by Nasa, Nagpur and its surrounding area seems to be under the cloud of SO2. The latest report of Nasa and University of Maryland states that India is surpassing China as the world‘s largest emitter of anthropogenic SO2, with over 33 million people living in areas with substantial SO2pollution. “Continued growth in emissions will adversely affect more people and further exacerbate morbidity and mortality,” adds the report