Green bodies today demanded that emission standards set for thermal power plants should not be diluted and said inadequate execution of such norms worsens air pollution killing 1.2 million people in India every year. Volunteers and activists of the green bodies held a silent protest over this issue and submitted a petition, titled ‘Clean Air Nation’, signed by over a lakh people, to the Environment ministry, which assured the activists that the norms will not be diluted. Joint secretary in the ministry, Arun Kumar Mehta, has assured the activists of Greenpeace India, Care4Air and Help Delhi Breathe, that emission standards of thermal power plants will not be diluted, Greenpeace India said in a statement.
The ministry had notified the emission standards for thermal power plants (TPPs) on December 7, 2015 and had set December 2017 as the deadline for implementing it. With less than nine months left, reports have appeared that the government is ready to relax the deadline and even dilute the emission standards.
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“We urged the ministry to ensure that a monitoring mechanism for implementation of the emission standards is put in place, so that we do not reach a situation in December where no power plant has complied to the notification,” Sunil Dahiya campaigner of Greenpeace India said. “The joint secretary said he is aware of the effect of air pollution on human health and will make sure that pollution level does not increase,” he said.
The impacts of air pollution are far-reaching and devastating which include rise in economic and health expenditure. It is a national problem which is killing 1.2 million Indians every year and costing the economy around 3 per cent of GDP, Greenpeace said.
“We desperately need to upgrade thermal power plants to control air pollution. Without these upgrades we will never have clean air,” said Help Delhi Breathe campaign coordinator Reecha Upadhyay.
“Along with upgrading the newer plants, we need to phase out older power plants and use our resources to invest in clean and green renewable energy for India,” Upadhyay said.
According to various studies, exposure to particulate matters have both short and long-term effects on human health.
There is a marked increase in pollution-related ailments like redness in eyes, lung cancer and heart attacks.
“In the short term, we must focus on reducing emissions from existing power plants by implementing the standards. In the long term, we need to recognise that coal is the biggest contributor to air pollution. Breaking free from fossil fuels will lead India towards a cleaner and sustainable future,” Ekta Singh of Care4Air said.
Coal has been a major source of air and water pollution. Reliance on coal has led to loss of forests, wildlife and has destroyed livelihoods of thousands of people. Research suggests that growth in use of coal is responsible for around one lakh premature deaths in India, Greenpeace said.