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Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has urged Environment ministry not to extend the deadline of meeting emission norms for coal-based thermal power plants in the country. The power ministry has requested the Environment ministry to extend the deadline from 2022 to 2024; as per media reports, the environment ministry might be working on a graded plan to do this. “Extending the deadline once again will have grave repercussions for the fight against air pollution. It will also mean a complete mockery of the Supreme Court and Indian regulators’ efforts to control pollution from the coal-based thermal power sector over the last five years,” pointed out Sunita Narain, director general, CSE, the statement said.

The power ministry had requested the Environment ministry in Janauary to extend extending the deadlines allotted to 448 operational power generating units;the proposed extension is up to two years from their existing deadlines. The extension was sought on the account of uncertainties and delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and other issues like import restrictions, lack of local availability of components, liquidity crunch in the power sector, credit refusals due to high stress in the sector, regulatory delays etc. A week before this, the power ministry had argued for a dilution of the sulphur dioxide norms, citing an incomplete study by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA). Says Narain: “The power ministry’s move seems to have been influenced by the industry’s consistent efforts to dilute and delay the norms. The industry is obviously not bothered about the health risks posed by pollution from these coal-basedpower plants.” 

Coal-fired power plants are some of the most polluting industries in the country. They account for over 60 per cent of the total particulate matter (PM) emissions from all industry, as well as 45 per cent of the SO2, 30 per cent of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and over 80 per cent of the mercury emissions. 

“The power ministry’s request is nothing but rewarding those plants that have not taken adequate action on the 2015 notification till now. We request the MoEF&CC to consider our firstrun policy and incentivise plants that are meeting the norms and penalise units that are defaulting,”says Nivit Kumar Yadav, programme director, industrial pollution unit, CSE.