New Delhi : The joint secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) Mr Arun Kumar Mehta today assured activists from Greenpeace India, Care4Air and Help Delhi Breathe, that emission standards for thermal power plants will not be diluted.
Over one lakh concerned citizens have signed the Greenpeace petition for a ‘Clean Air Nation’ that was delivered to the MoEFCC today. A group of volunteers and environmental activists, some of them dressed in oversized lung-shaped costumes to visually represent the impacts of worsening air pollution, brought the petition to Environment Minister Mr Anil Madhav Dave, and handed it over to Mr Mehta who is Joint Secretary at MOEF&CC. Sunil Dahiya from Greenpeace India and Ekta Singh from Care4Air met with Mr Mehta, who on behalf of the Ministry assured them that the emission norms for thermal power plants as notified on 7th December 2015 will not be diluted.
Campaigners from groups including Greenpeace, Help Delhi Breathe and Care4Air called on Minister Dave to challenge all attempts at relaxing or diluting the Thermal Power Plants emission standards. The MoEF had set December 2017 as the deadline for implementing emission standards for thermal power plants. With less than nine months left, reports suggested that the government is ready to relax the deadline and worse, even dilute the emission standards that it had set.
“Mr Mehta further added that they were aware of the hazards air pollution causes on human health and he will make sure that the pollution doesn’t increase. We urged MOEF&CC and Mr Mehta to ensure that a monitoring mechanism for implementation of the emission standards is put in place, so that we don’t reach a situation in December where no power plant has complied to the notification,” said Sunil Dahiya, campaigner, Greenpeace India.
“We desperately need to upgrade TPPs to control air pollution – without these upgrades we will never have clean air” said Reecha Upadhyay, Help Delhi Breathe campaign coordinator. “Along with upgrading the newer plants, we need to phase out older power plants completely, and use our resource to invest in clean and green renewable energy for India.”
The impacts of air pollution are far reaching and have devastating consequences, including rising economic and health costs. It is a national problem that is killing 1.2 million Indians every year and costing the economy an estimated 3% of GDP. Studies have linked PM exposure to health effects in both, the short and the long term, with a marked increase in pollution-linked ailments from redness in the eyes to lung cancer and heart attacks. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has, in its own reports, demonstrated the impact of Air pollution on Children in Delhi.
Historically, coal has been a major source of pollution in air as well as water. Reliance on coal has led to loss of forests, wildlife and destroyed livelihoods of thousands of people. Research suggests that growth in coal is responsible for an estimated one lakh premature deaths in India.
Ekta Singh from Care4Air, said, “In the immediate, short term, we must focus on reducing emissions from existing power plants by implementing the standards to control emissions. But in the long term, we need to recognise that coal is the biggest contributor to air pollution and that breaking free from polluting fossil fuels will lead India towards a cleaner and sustainable future.”