New Delhi: Out of 600 thermal power plants in India, only 24 have installed Flue-Gas Desulphurisation (FGD) technology, despite multiple extensions in deadlines. According to data shared by Minister of State (MoS) for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ashwini Kumar Choubey in the Lok Sabha on Monday, not one state thermal power utility out of 221 have installed FGD technology so far, while only nine Central thermal power plants out of 168 have installed the technology to check the sulphur dioxide (SO2) emission. In the private sector, however, out of 211 plants, 15 have installed FGD, said the minister.
The latest deadline for thermal power plants expires in December 2024 for Category A (plants within 100 km of Delhi-NCR and cities having million-plus population), December 2025 for Category B (plants within 10-km radius of critically polluted areas or non-attainment cities) and December 2026 for Category C, which includes all plants not covered under the first two categories.
Even though 168 Central thermal power plants have awarded bids for the highest number of FGD installations — 133 — only nine have completed the installation. Commenting on the delay in the installation of this technology, Choubey told the Lok Sabha, “The implementation of the emission norms, requiring installation of Flue-Gas Desulphurisation (FGD) technology, got delayed due to various techno-economic constraints faced by thermal power plants and further affected by the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change stipulated norms for sulphur dioxide (SO2) emission apart from other pollutants for coal-fired thermal power plants in December 2015.
In order to ensure compliance with the new emission norms and accelerate the adoption of pollution control measures, the notification dated September 5, 2022 prescribes for imposition of environmental compensation on non-compliant coal-fired thermal power plants.
“The respective State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs)/ Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) issue the Consent to Operate under the provisions of Air (Prevention and Control of Air Pollution) Act, 1981 and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 to oversee the compliance of emissions/effluent standards. SPCBs/PCCs carry out physical monitoring of industries from time to time and take action against the violators under the provision of the Water and Air Acts. Further, Online Continuous Emission and Effluent Monitoring Systems (OCEMS) have been installed in 17 categories of highly polluting industries, including thermal power plants, for 24×7 monitoring of compliance of environmental parameters,” the minister told the House.
According to the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, India is the second-biggest emitter of SO2 in the world after China. Most of India’s SO2 emissions comes from its power sector. Sulphur Dioxide is emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, especially coal, or any other fuel that contains sulphur. Sulfur dioxide can damage trees and plants, inhibit plant growth, and damage sensitive ecosystems and waterways. It also can contribute to respiratory illness and aggravate existing heart and lung conditions.