The ministry of environment, forests and climate change has drafted new emission and water consumption standards for thermal power plants. In a draft notification soliciting comments from the public on the matter, it laid out the tighter norms that are expected to cut down emissions of particulate matter and other harmful chemical compounds to a large degree.
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi, has lauded the move. CSE Deputy Director General Chandra Bhushan said: "We welcome this move. It will have an impact on the pollution caused by the thermal power sector in India." Earlier this year, CSE had filed a report titled, 'Heat on Power', recommending tighter norms to help curb pollution. Other than particulate matter (PM) emissions, which are projected to drop by 25 per cent, a number of other highly polluting chemicals are also set to be curbed. This include sulphur dioxide (SO2) by 90 per cent, nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 70 per cent and mercury by 75 per cent. India currently has standards only for PM, which are quite lax compared to global norms.
Those plants that were established after 2003 will need to meet slightly lower standards, while plants older than 2003 will be required to meet more relaxed norms.
Earlier this year, CSE had released its environmental rating of the coal-based thermal power sector, under its Green Rating Project. Forty seven plants, adding up to 55 per cent of the nation's capacity ranked poorly on all the parameters. The disproportionately high pollution levels had attracted Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's attention, prompting budgetary support of additional Rs 100 per tonne cess on coal that will be used to invest in clean generation.
Also, the new norms will require all existing cooling tower-based plants to restrict water consumption to 3.5 cubic metre per watt hour.
Also, all existing once-through-cooling (OTC) system plants will need to be replaced with cooling tower-based systems that consume no more than 4 m3/MWh. This can have a remarkable reduction in freshwater withdrawal up to 80 per cent. The cumulative decrease is set to be from around 22 billion cubic metre in 2011-12 to around 4.5 billion cubic metre in 2016-17.