31 May 2018
The implementation of new emission standards for thermal power plants can avoid 124,000 premature deaths every year in India, says a new report suggesting 13 measures to drop pollution levels by 40 per cent.
In December 2015, the Union government had set emission standards for coal-based power plants, which were to be complied by December 2017, but according to green activists, not a single plant has complied fully.
The report, 'Source apportionment, health effects and potential reduction of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in India', by Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge with contribution of Greenpeace India, seeks to add research to the government's National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).
It also contends that cancelling the construction of proposed coal-fired power plants can avoid a further 26,000 premature deaths.
According to a Greenpeace report, about 12 lakh premature deaths anually are attributed to pollution in India, of which nine lakh are linked to air pollution.
The study says that implementing the 13 measures it suggests may also lead to 50-60 percent reduction of wintertime PM2.5 levels across north India, including Delhi.
The measures includes implementing emission standards on current operating and under-construction coal-based power plants; avoiding emissions from cancellation of new coal-fired power plants; reducing solid fuels, crop burning, diesel generating sets use and municipal solid waste; applying cleaner Bharat Standards fuels; slower oil consumption growth; shift to zigzag kilns and stronger oil sulfur limits and introducing new emission standards.
"A comprehensive set of policies including all of the 13 measures are needed to achieve a 40 percent reduction in air pollution levels and avoid a projected 9 lakh premature deaths per year," said report's author, Professor Hongliang Zhang.
"We urge the Environment Ministry to incorporate these measures into the NCAP and ensure thermal power plants implement the notification of December 2015," said Sunil Dahiya, Campaigner, Greenpeace India.
The NCAP, a government flagship programme announced by Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan in December 2017 to mitigate air pollution across the country, calls for a long-term time-bound, national-level plan. It also seeks to increase the manual monitoring stations across the country from 684 to 1,000 and digital monitoring stations to 268 from existing 84.