The Centre asked 79 coal power plants to install equipment to cut sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions by the end of December 2021, but 517 coal plants have been allowed extensions in deadlines. According to the revised categorisation of thermal power plants by the Central Pollution Control Board, the 79 coal power plants fall near million-plus cities, which are already polluted. The cities include Delhi, Chennai, Kota, Greater Mumbai, Nagpur, Visakhapatnam and Vijayawada. They have been marked in category A of the revised categorisation of thermal power plants.
The 79 coal plants will have to pay a penalty of 10 paise per unit of electricity generated upto 180 days of non-compliance, 15 paise between 181 days to 365 days and 20 paise per unit after 366 days, as per the new norms issued by the environment ministry in April 2021. Earlier norms required closure of coal plants over non-compliance. Category A are plants within the 10km radius of the National Capital Region and cities with a million plus population; category B plants are in the 10km radius of critically polluted areas or non-attainment cities; the remaining power plants are category C.
Not much improvement in air quality three years post NCAP launch: Study
According to CarbonCopy and Respirer Living Sciences findings, even after three years of the launch of the National Clean Year Programme, the air quality in most of the 132 non-attainment cities (those cities who failed to attain national clean air target of 40ug/m3) have either improved marginally or in some cases PM levels increased compared to levels before the NCAP was launched. The study found Ghaziabad as the most polluted city in India followed by Delhi.
Based on the Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring System (CAAQMS) data, its PM 2.5 levels dropped from 108 ug/m3 in 2019 to 102 ug/m3 in 2021 and its PM 10 levels reduced from 217 ug/m3 to 207 ug/m3 during the same period, it said. It added that Delhi’s PM 2.5 level continues to be more than 2.5 times the CPCB’s safe limit of 40 ug/m3 and 20 times the WHO’s safe limit of 5ug/m3.
The data shows there has been little or no progress on ground. An analysis of the government’s air quality data shows that not only have most non-attainment cities reduced PM 2.5 and PM 10 levels only marginally, but some have also recorded an increase. According to the three-year comparative analysis, Ghaziabad, with an annual PM 2.5 level above 100, remained at the top of the table in the most polluted cities, except in 2020, when Lucknow ranked first with an annual PM 2.5 level of 116.
Pollution rising again in Bihar, West Bengal and Odisha: CSE
Air pollution is rising again In the east Indian states of Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, according to an analysis by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). Durgapur, a big industrial hub of West Bengal, had the most polluted air in the region in 2021, with an annual average PM2.5 level of 80 microgram per cubic metre (µg/m3), followed by Muzaffarpur and Patna, with annual average PM2.5 levels of 78 µg/m3 and 73 µg/m3, respectively.
The CSE report said Durgapur needs to reduce annual average PM2.5 by 50% to meet the annual PM2.5 standard, followed by Howrah (34%), Asansol (32%), Siliguri (32%), and Kolkata (28%). Haldia met the standard in 2021, the study stated. In Bihar, Muzaffarpur needs to cut annual average PM2.5 levels by nearly 50% to meet the standard, followed by Patna (45%), Hajipur (33%), and Gaya (18%).
China makes “extraordinary progress” in achieving clean air targets?
Chinese authorities claimed they have “fully met” all their air quality targets for the first time in 2021, which is almost 10 years ahead of expected time, Climate Home reported. A decade ago, Beijing witnessed widespread protests over air pollution. Experts said China has achieved “extraordinary progress” following measures to curb coal smoke from heavy industry and home heating.
China claimed to have cut the toxic particles (PM2.5) in the air by 63% to 33 micrograms between 2013 and 2021. The official figures are in line with those recorded from the US embassy in Beijing and progress reported by the UN Environment Programme. While a huge improvement, the average pollution level is still more than double the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended limit of 15 micrograms.
Maharashtra to complete air pollution analysis for 19 cities by 2023: Govt
The government said the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) will complete mandatory source apportionment studies by March 2023 for 19 non-attainment cities where air quality does not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Maharashtra currently has a total of 25 non-attainment cities and five cantonment boards. The state pollution control board said the bulk of source apportionment studies is nearly complete, with final reports due by January 2022 for the first 10 cities, including Mumbai, HT reported.
The others include Pune, Nagpur, Nashik, Amravati, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Chandrapur, Solapur and Navi Mumbai. While a similar study for Mumbai has previously been done by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in 2010, the remaining cities have not yet been studied to identify the sources of their air pollution. The newspaper reported that Interim analysis reports for these 10 cities have also been submitted to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).