Though the government is taking numerous measures to cut down on environmental pollution levels, an audit report by the Comptroller and the Auditor General of India (CAG) has indicated that existing power plants in the country are not adhering to the norms meant to safeguard ecological interests. The CAG report, tabled in Parliament last Friday, covered 216 projects that were granted environmental clearances (ECs) by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF&CC) between January 2011 and July 2015. It also checked the post-EC monitoring of 352 projects which had been granted EC between 2008 and 2012.
Of the 24 thermal power plants verified by CAG, eight had various non-compliances related to fly ash storage. Some of these projects belonged to large industry players such as Jindal Power, Adani Power and NTPC. Of the projects examined by CAG, 45% did not use the ash satisfactorily. Thermal plants are supposed to utilise 100% of fly ash from the fourth year of operation. The report also indicated that power plants did not take required measures to control emissions. The industry showed negligence in installing electrostatic precipitators which are essential for controlling the discharge of particulate matter in the air. NTPC’s 2,600-MW Korba power plant in Chhattisgarh was the largest plant cited by CAG in this category.
The report observed some irregularities in coal procurement procedures in some of the thermal power plants it examined. It said that several thermal plants across Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal lacked clarity on their specific coal-procuring points. CAG said that the MoEF&CC must ensure that the PP uses coal from the block/mine as per the EC.
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Additionally, there were instances where the plants used coal with more-than-permitted ash content. It was also seen that the conditions regarding the ash content required for environmental clearances varied in certain places. Proper fly ash storage in power plants remains an environmental concern as well.
India aims to cut its emissions intensity by 33-35% by 2030 from 2005 levels, according to the 2015 Paris agreements.
CAG concluded that the monitoring authorities were not able to track the environmental non-compliances due to a lack of clear-cut responsibility assigned to them.
There was also a lack of infrastructure and manpower at the pollution-control bodies despite having sufficient funds, CAG noted.