Pay & pollute? Most of India’s thermal power plants have been given another extension until 2025 to implement SO2 emission norms | Photo: The Weather Channel

India extends deadline for coal plants to adopt new emission norms by 3 years

India extended deadlines for coal power plants to install emission reduction technology by three years. The deadline to install Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) units, which reduce sulphur dioxides (SO2) had already been extended by 5 years from 2017 to 2022. Now the government has allowed utilities that miss the new target to continue operating after paying a penalty, Reuters reported, citing a government notice.

The environment ministry order said plants near populous regions and New Delhi will have to comply by 2022, while those in less polluted areas have up to 2025 to comply or retire units. State-owned coal plants such as NTPC Ltd and private companies such as Reliance Power and Adani Power have been lobbying for dilution of the pollution standards, citing high compliance costs.

Meanwhile, a major source of air pollution, the 54-year-old NTPC coal power plant in Odisha‘s Talcher was shut down on March 31. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had sent a closure deadline for the plant in January because it failed to adhere to environmental norms.

Centre pushes stakeholders to speed up National Clean Air Programme, MoUs signed

To speed up the work under the National Clean Air Plan (NCAP) in 132 cities, the Centre signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with different stakeholders, including the State Pollution Control Boards, urban local bodies and institutes of repute. Under the programme, experts prepare city-specific action plans, which are expected to be executed with the help of MoUs. The Centre wants to reduce air pollution by at least 20% in the next four years, environment minister Prakash Javdekar said.

While acknowledging that the implementation of the NCAP has been tardy, Javadakar said he regretted that only 600 e-buses have been procured, while money was allocated for 6,000 of these vehicles in different cities. He said the money will be given to other cities if any town fails to make use of the procurement budget. 

Data released on Europe’s top 10 most polluting airlines

Lufthansa (Germany), British Airways and Air France are Europe’s top emitters, revealed new data on the international emissions of Europe’s flagship carriers, which was made public for the first time. German airline Lufthansa’s CO2 emissions in 2019 amounted to 19.11 million tonnes (mt), followed by British Airways and Air France at 18.4 mt and 14.39 mt respectively, according to the study. The UK is the only nation in Europe to have more than one airline listed in the top 10 ranking. Clean transport campaign group Transport & Environment (T&E) and NGO Carbon Market Watch obtained the 2019 data from EU governments under the Freedom of Information laws.

Air pollution from coal plants causing 34,000 premature deaths across Europe: Study

Air pollution from European coal plants could be causing nearly 34,000 premature deaths in the continent, according to a new study. The research found that PM2.5 pollution from Europe’s coal plants causes at least 16,800 excess deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases annually. However, the study revealed that the real level of pollution from coal plants could be as high as 33,900. The study published in Environmental Research Letters uses data from the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register.

Lead author Dr Jonilda Kushta, who is a research scientist at the Climate and Atmosphere Research Centre at The Cyprus Institute, told The Independent that there is likely an underestimation of coal power plant source strengths in the official emissions inventory.

Google Maps to allow commuters to cut emissions using eco-friendly routes

Commuters using Google Maps will be directed to the routes that generate the lowest carbon footprint using traffic data and road inclines instead of just shortest alternatives. The feature will be set in default on the Google Maps app as the “eco-friendly” option, unless users choose to opt out of it. Users will be allowed to compare estimated emissions, when alternative routes are faster. Google’s product director Russel Dicker told the BBC that for around half of the routes, there is an option more eco-friendly with minimal or no time-cost trade-off.

The search engine uses emissions data based on testing across different types of cars and road types by the US government’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). The company uses its own road data factors in slopes and inclines from its Street View cars feature, along with aerial and satellite imagery. Google will introduce the feature first in the US this year and expand it later in the rest of the world. 

Nepal shuts schools for four days after pollution hits hazardous levels

Nepal’s capital Kathmandu is battling an air pollution emergency over the past 10 days. Schools were closed for four days after air pollution climbed to hazardous levels on the morning of March 27, 2021. The AQI was 421, according to the Real-Time Air Quality Index monitoring device installed in the city’s United States Embassy. The country of 30 million people lies in the Himalayas, between China and India, two of the world’s biggest polluters.

Dust from construction, emissions from old vehicles and smoke from coal-burning brick kilns pollute the city of four million people, raising the risk of cancer, stroke, asthma and high blood pressure, experts said. Climate scientists said forest fires raging across the country also polluted the air. As many as 2,713 forest fires were reported on March 30.

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