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Scurrying for solutions to fight the toxic air pollution, the government has said it plans to transport coal in covered rail wagons and trucks across the country.
Ferrying of coal in uncovered vehicles and rail wagons is said to be one of the key reasons behind high pollution levels along the transportation route from coal mine or importing sea port to user plants like power generation houses.
"We are looking at better and more environment friendly transportation of coal. I have ordered that we will design a covering over every truck and railway wagon that transports coal across the length and breadth of the country," Coal and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal told PTI here.
For the third straight year, in the month of November, thick toxic smog enveloped the national capital region (NCR), leading to what has been called a health emergency. Coal-fired power plants are said to be one of the sources of pollution.
India generates about 65 per cent of its electricity using coal as fuel. It is abundantly available in the country and is cheaper than alternate fuel sources like natural gas and liquid hydrocarbons.
Goyal said the government is consistently working to see how the impact of coal-based power plants on environment is reduced.
While power plants follow stringent standards, newer equipments like Flue-gas desulphurisation (FGD), which removes sulphur dioxide, will take time to be installed, he said.
But, to begin with, transporting coal in covered wagons and trucks is being done, he said.
Goyal said he had only last week ordered the designing of cover for trucks and rail wagons.
"We will need to give it some time to procure and implement as thousands and thousands of trucks and railway wagons are used for this purpose," he said without giving a time-frame or cost involved.
Rail wagons and trucks ferry coal from mines in states like Chattisgarh and Jharkhand in eastern India, or ports like Mormugao in Goa on the west to consumption centres, polluting the areas en route.
Also, his ministry is engaging with universities and science labs across the world on carbon capture and utilisation (CCU).
"We are also looking at what we can do to move from only coal-based power," he said, adding that coal liquefaction or coal-gasification -- converting coal in liquid fuel or natural gas, or exploiting more coal-bed methane (natural gas found below coal seams) are being explored.
Goyal said India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi Government, has taken a lead on climate change through various programmes.
One of these being the massive push for use of LED bulbs and tubes, which will save Rs 40,000 crore in annual electricity bills, reduce energy consumption by 11,200 crore units a year and bring down carbon-di-oxide emission by 8 crore tonnes annually, he said.
"Similarly, we are working on the coal side to see how we can make the use of coal more efficient, more environment friendly, but we can't wish away coal. That is the base load we have domestically, it provides energy security, low cost power to the people of India," he said.