Environment Ministry Notifies Stricter Standards for Coal Based Thermal Power Plants to Minimise Pollution
India’s environment ministry has tightened the pollution norms for coal-based thermal power plants and has announced three different categories of standards based on the dates of implementation of the coal power projects.

The power plants to come up after 31st December 2016 will have the strictest norms regarding PM10, SO2, NOx. Power plants that came up after 31st December 2003 till date and the ones that will be commissioned before 2016 december 31st will have a lower slab. The power plants that came up prior to 31st December 2003 have the lowest ie easiest of the norms.

The new standards are aimed at reducing emission of PM10(0.98 kg/MWh), sulphur dioxide(7.3 Kg/MWh) and Oxide of nitrogen (4.8 kg/MWh), which will is supposed to help in bringing about an improvement in the Ambient Air Quality (AAQ) in and around thermal power plants. The technology employed for the control of the proposed limit of Sulfur Dioxide - SO2 & Nitrogen Oxide - NOx will also help in control of mercury emission (at about 70-90%) as a co-benefit. Limiting the use of water in thermal power plant will lead to water conservation (about 1.5 M3/MWh) as thermal power plant is a water-intensive industry. This will also lead to a reduction in energy requirement for drawl of water.

It may be noted that the pollution due to India’s thermal power plants have resulted in many dead rivers and millions of people with diseases. While talking with people in Talcher in Odisha, I found that most of the residents know that death due to diseases are inevitable due to the pollution from the thermal power plant. Unfortunately, these norms are way too late for many people. It has to be seen if the norms notified by the ministry results in any significant change in air quality. In view of climate change and India’s proclaimed thrust for solar power, it was expected that the norms for polluting coal-based thermal power plants had to be tightened and hopefully the percentage of power generated from coal-based power plants will significantly reduce in future.