Will write to EPCA, CPCB for shutting 11 coal-fired power plants near Delhi: Minister Gopal Rai

Published - October 15, 2020 05:07 pm IST - New Delhi

Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai addresses a press conference on current situation of pollution in Delhi and NCR, in New Delhi, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.

Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai addresses a press conference on current situation of pollution in Delhi and NCR, in New Delhi, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.

Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai on Thursday said he will ask the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and a Supreme Court-mandated pollution control authority to shut the 11 coal-fired power plants operating within 300 kilometres of Delhi within a week.

Mr. Rai said the Delhi government has been making all efforts to bring pollution levels down, “but we become helpless when pollution from neighbouring states affects the city’s air quality”.

A layer of haze hung over Delhi and its neighbouring areas on Thursday and the air quality slipped to “very poor” levels. Delhi recorded an air quality index (AQI) of 315 at 11:10 a.m. The last time the air quality hit such a poor level was in February.

Mr. Rai said, “I am going to write a letter to the CPCB and the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, asking them to shut these power plants within seven days till the situation improves.”

The minister said authorities are considering granting extension to these power plants to meet the new emission norms, instead of shutting them.

The 11 power plants have missed two deadlines to install flue-gas desulphurisation units to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions.

The CPCB had earlier set the deadline as December 2017 to meet the emission standards. It was later extended by two years to December 31, 2019.

“The CPCB recently said these power plant can operate if they pay a fine of ₹ 18 lakh a month. How can they allow them to run? How can you play with people’s lives?” Mr. Rai asked.

India is the largest emitter of SO2 in the world. Thermal power plants account for 45% of total industrial SO2 emissions in the country. Flue-gas desulfurisation (FGD) units can reduce SO2 emissions by 80%.

The minister said the Delhi government banned electricity generators with the Graded Response Plan coming into force on Thursday, “but Haryana wants relaxations, why?”

“They were exempted last year too. If diesel generators are operated in Gurugram and Faridabad, won’t it affect Delhi’s air quality? “

The Haryana administration recently told EPCA that around 16,200 people in some residential complexes and condominiums in Gurugram and Faridabad will be affected by the ban, as their developers or builders have not yet taken electricity connections.

Rai questioned why the Centre and states are not taking any action against brick kilns operating in nearby areas using outdated technologies.

There are more than 1,640 such brick kilns in Uttar Pradesh, 161 in Haryana and 164 Rajasthan.

He also said Delhi will be able to reduce vehicular pollution by 15-20% if people turn off their vehicles at red lights.

He said the AAP government wanted to turn Red light on, gaadi off campaign into a people’s movement.

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