Sixty three signatories from civil society organisations, medical professionals and concerned citizens all over India have written to the Minister of Environment Forest and Climate Change, urging implementation of new norms for emission standards and water use of the coal fired thermal power plants. The group suggested that the ministry should release an interim report on the “status of implementation” to dispel rumours about the norms not being met.
In December 2015, the MoEFCC initiated a welcome first step towards addressing these concerns about air pollution and high water consumption by thermal power plants, when it notified new and tighter norms for emissions from coal based thermal power plants and their water use. New Thermal Power Plants (TPPs), that is TPPs installed after 1 January 2017 have to meet these norms at commissioning itself, while most existing TPPs have to do it by Dec 2017. These norms, introduced as amendments to the Environment (Protection) Rules of 1986, are legally binding.
“More than 17 months have passed since the notification came into existence and yet no progress has been made towards controlling the emissions from these coal power plants. On the contrary it’s appalling, some internal discussion and media reports suggest that MoEFCC and CEA may dilute the norms and extend the deadlines. These delays in the implementation come at the expense of our lives and the government must assess the loss of public health before diluting and delaying the emissions standards,” said Nandikesh Sivalingam, senior campaigner, Greenpeace India.
Resonating with this letter, several leading health practitioners’ communities and activists have reiterated the serious health impacts posed by emissions from thermal power plants and endorsed the demand of not diluting or extending the deadline.
Dr Sree Karuna Murthy Kolli, Vice President (South) of Indian Public Health Association and a member of Healthy Energy Initiative network in India said “As a medical doctor, Dr Harshvardhan is aware of the importance of strict air emission norms to protect public health. Each year, thousands of people are dying. Many are suffering from respiratory ailments, dermatological and psychiatric diseases triggered by toxic air. Thermal plants contribute majorly to worsening the air quality. Indian cities have acquired a notoriety globally for their poor air quality. By bringing the notification for stricter norms in December 2015, the MoEFCC has committed to a reduction of Particulate Matter (PM), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen dioxide (NOx) and mercury in air. We are now urging the minister that public health and not economics should be considered, while taking decisions. And keeping public health in mind, the thermal power plant emission norms should not be diluted and its implementation not deferred”