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Air Pollution Mess Deepens: India producing electricity at the cost of clean air

May 6, 2015 1:24 PM |

Air Pollution Delhi IndiaUnder the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India aims at achieving economic growth without causing any further damage to the environment. Several eco-friendly steps have been taken by the Modi government to ensure a cleaner and safer tomorrow. Policies have been framed, roles have been assigned, meetings have been held, and funds have been allocated. For example, the government has pledged $25 billion to recondition ageing utilities owned by the state.

One such utility is the Delhi based, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Ltd. run coal-fired plant, located in Badarpur. The worn out plant's overall coal consumption is on the higher side. This results in extremely high toxic emissions. NTPC plans to revamp the plant using technological upgrades. Currently, the plant releases a blackish-brown exhaust forcing locals to fend for themselves using masks, stoles, and handkerchiefs. As per a report released by the Centre for Science and Environment, the Badarpur based plant scores among the six most polluting plants in India. The failure to acquire and adopt clean coal technologies has worsened the situation in most parts of the country.

India heavily relies on coal-fired plants to meet the energy requirement of its vast population. About 60% of India’s power needs are addressed using coal. Nuclear energy options continue to remain paralyzed over security concerns. Also, clean and renewable sources of energy like wind, solar, and water haven’t really gained momentum. But they are expected to contribute as much as 15% towards the production of electricity in India in future.

Air pollution mess in India off the charts

Delhi has been declared as the world’s most polluted city owing to soaring PM2.5 levels. As per a World Health Organization (WHO) report, 11 out of the world’s 20 most polluted cities, are in India. The air in Delhi and other cities of India is also defiling several historical and religious monuments. Vehicular emissions, burning of garbage and other materials, industrial discharge, along with other factors are being held responsible for the poor quality of air in major cities across India. Health problems are on the rise and most of these involve breathing ailments and heart problems triggered by air pollution.

Key steps taken, but change still unnoticeable

Eco-friendly steps have been taken by both central as well as state governments. Delhi government has taken some crucial environment-friendly steps in order to combat the situation. Similarly, at the national level, India’s first national air quality index was launched to provide a clear understanding of air quality level across 10 cities. Recently, the National Green Tribunal banned burning of garbage and other materials in Delhi.

But most of these steps are largely good to hear and talk about. The loopholes in the NAQI, non-adherence to the NGT ban on burning of materials, and the gradual shift of air pollution carriers to other cities force us to reconsider the enforcement leg of these proposals and plans.

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