New Delhi: The Delhi-NCR’s comprehensive clean air action plan is “floundering”, a green body said and asserted that thermal power and brick-making sectors, the two key contributors to the severe pollution in the region, might continue to pollute.
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said getting brick kilns to agree to convert to cleaner technology was a key gain for the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), but that poor conversion quality is threatening to throw the gains “off gear”.
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It also said most of the thermal plants do not have plans to meet the December 2019 deadline for new emission norms set by the Environment Ministry.
“In 2015, the Union Environment Ministry had announced new emission norms for thermal power plants across India. For power stations located within 300 km of the Delhi-NCR region, the deadline for meeting the norms is December 2019.
“A new survey by the CSE indicates that most plants will not meet the deadline,” it said.
The green body said the Delhi-NCR has over 3,000 legal brick kilns, which had been largely practising the extremely polluting process, called FCBTK process (or Fixed Chimney Bull’s Trench Kiln), of manufacturing bricks.
In a major step forward, and following action and directives from the EPCA, these kilns have agreed to convert to a cleaner technology – the zigzag process.
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However, a new CSE assessment reveals that more than half of the kilns have not converted to the zigzag technology efficiently, thereby negating any gains that might have accrued in Delhi’s fight against bad air, it pointed out.
Delhi-NCR’s comprehensive clean air action plan is floundering because of the apathy of the regulatory agencies. Our survey of brick kilns and thermal power plants shows that despite regulations and intervention of the Supreme Court and the EPCA, the implementation on the ground is highly compromised.
“Thermal power plants will not be able to meet stringent emission norms by 2019, and brick kilns’ conversion to a cleaner zigzag technology will not lead to real reductions in emissions,” said Chandra Bhushan, the deputy director general, CSE.
The CSE survey was conducted to analyse the quality of conversion in 63 kilns across 13 districts in Delhi-NCR.
The survey found that about 1,000 kilns have already ‘converted’ to the zigzag technology, and the remaining 1,500 have given an affidavit to the EPCA to convert by October 2018. The conversion to zigzag is leading to real reductions in emissions and if the conversion quality is good, the emissions reduction can be as much as 50-70 per cent.
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“However, only about 20 per cent of the surveyed kilns had done good conversion. About 30 per cent of the kilns had average conversion quality and will be able to reduce emissions by 20-30 per cent, compared to the FCBTK technology.
35 per cent of the kilns had poor conversion quality and will not see any measurable reductions in emissions.
About 15 per cent of the brick kilns were found to be bypassing the law. They have done cosmetic changes and have not converted to the zigzag technology. The survey result was confirmed by pollution monitoring of 10 per cent of the surveyed kilns, it said.
Better converted zigzag kilns (three out of six) were found to be having a CO/CO2 ratio below 0.015 — a 70 per cent combustion efficiency improvement compared to FCBTKs.
Average performing kilns (one out of six) had a ratio between 0.015 and 0.03, an almost 30-50 per cent improvement while poor performing zigzag kilns (two out of six) had a CO/CO2 ratio between 0.045 and 0.05 and point to no improvement over FCBTK.
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The CSE’s survey of thermal power stations in Delhi-NCR was aimed at assessing the preparedness of the plants to meet the deadline. The survey show little progress to meet the 2019 deadline, it said.
In the case of Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions, 83 per cent of the plants will not be able to comply with the 2019 deadline, unless they are able to fast track the entire process from feasibility studies to construction and installation work. Half of the region’s installed capacity may be able to meet the 2019 deadline for nitrogen oxide (NO2) control.
“In the case of particulate matter (PM), about 35 per cent of the overall installed capacity will not meet the deadline. In fact, another 50 per cent has been asked to meet the norms immediately but no credible data is available to confirm they are in compliance. Accordingly, 88 per cent of the plants may not be able to comply with PM norms,” it said.
The report said the winters, the season of severely polluted air quality, are approaching fast and the Delhi-NCR cannot afford poor implementation of the comprehensive clean air action plan.
It is time the government agencies on the ground, especially the central and state pollution control boards, ensure that the conversion of brick kilns to zigzag is done appropriately and thermal power plants expedite the setting-up of pollution control systems to meet the 2019 deadline, said Bhushan.
The government had told Parliament in March that a Comprehensive Action Plan for management of air pollution in Delhi-NCR had been finalised.
The plan has identified timelines for agencies to take action under various categories like air quality monitoring, action to reduce vehicular emissions, strategies to reduce number of vehicles on road and non-motorised transport (NMT) network among others.
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