TNPCB bid to tackle deteriorating air quality

In an effort to tackle the deteriorating ambient air quality in the city, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board is in the process of setting up an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that will aim to cap total pollution emission levels from industrial clusters in and around Chennai.

An emission exchange would be set up to allow industries that pollute more than the stipulated level to buy energy saving certificates (Escerts), from those that pollute less. “Industrial units will have to pay a price for their emissions and can choose how much to emit, within reasonable limits, taking this price into account. The price of emission makes pollution costly and gives polluters an incentive to cut back,” said TNPCB Chairman Rameshram Mishra.

Promoted as a market-friendly regulatory mechanism by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the scheme known as Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) is being simultaneously tested in industrial belts in Gujarat and Maharashtra as part of a pilot implementation.

Through PAT, the State governments would have the authority to set mandatory emission targets for 563 types of industrial units, including power plants, which account for 54 per cent of India's energy use.

Since the mean ambient level of total suspended particulates in India is about five times that of the U.S., Mr.Mishra said that particulates would be initially targeted. “A cap on the overall amount of emissions that Chennai can take would be fixed based on a study that is currently under way.”

Identifying two important shifts from the existing framework, he said that regulation will target total emissions, rather than concentration norms. “Under the current system, industrial units may adjust their emissions during the site visits by monitoring teams, which are infrequent, to appear to be less polluting. Also, the concentration during a particular visit may bear little on the pattern of emissions over the whole year.”

This would be replaced by continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS) that measure and report the total emissions from industry stacks continuously throughout the year. The second shift would be towards more transparency. “All the collected data would be made available to the public.

The Board will commit to well-defined goals on overall emission reduction by the private sector and may be held accountable for meeting them through active public participation,” Mr.Mishra added.

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